WEDNESDAY, Dec. 7, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Providing an educational intervention and increasing the availability of ear pulse oximeter ear probes increases their use in the critical care setting, in accordance with manufacturer guidelines, according to a study published in the December issue of Critical Care Nurse.

Danielle Hlavin, R.N., from UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Maureen Varty, Ph.D., R.N., from UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, assessed whether staff knowledge could be increased and the frequency of off-label pulse oximeter placement could be reduced in the critical care setting. A preintervention audit was completed, and following an educational intervention for health care staff in critical care units, a postintervention survey and postintervention audit were completed. To address supply barriers to the use of appropriate pulse oximetry sensors, 90 ear probes were purchased for the critical care setting.

The researchers found that a finger probe was used off-label on the ear in 15.2 percent of patients in the preintervention audit (508 observations). A finger probe was used on the ear in only 0.8 percent of patients in the postintervention audit with 365 observations.

“A review of the literature found that pulse oximetry accuracy is optimized when pulse oximeters are used according to manufacturer guidelines,” the authors write. “However, there may be gaps in staff knowledge and resources. Providing education about pulse oximetry and ensuring that appropriate resources such as ear pulse oximeter probes are available to staff increase compliance with best practice.”

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