Help Prepare Patients for Home Insulin Use

Patients will need your help with insulin education at discharge.

Be ready to explain how to use insulin pens or vials.

Pens. Walk through priming the pen with 2 units...dialing the dose...inserting the needle...and pressing the button. Educate that the needle has to stay inserted for about 10 seconds to get the full dose.

Explain that most pen needles have an outer AND inner cap that need to be removed before using. In fact, a patient died after not getting insulin...because the inner cap wasn’t taken off.

Vials. Show patients how to pull the empty syringe plunger to the dose mark and inject that air into the make drawing up the insulin easier.

Reinforce use of insulin syringes, NOT tuberculin or others.

For all insulin users, remind them to first wash their hands and choose a clean injection site. Educate to give insulin in the belly, thigh, buttock, or upper arm...about an inch away from the last site.

Be aware that most patients no longer need to “pinch an inch” of skin before injecting...since many pen and syringe needles are now shorter.

Advise NOT rubbing the site after injecting. Rubbing may cause the insulin to absorb too quickly.

Keep in mind to tell patients not to reuse a syringe or pen needle...this can cause infection or pain from a dull needle.

And verify patients have a sharps bin...or a strong plastic container, such as a bleach dispose of syringes and needles.

Remind about hypoglycemia symptoms, such as feeling dizzy or confused...and share our patient handout to help manage low blood glucose.

Use the teach-back method to confirm your instructions were understood...and watch patients self-administer a dose, if possible.

Keep in mind, insulin education may help decrease anxiety...and help boost hospital patient satisfaction scores and Star Ratings.

Brush up on what’s available using our Comparison of Insulins chart. And get our Insulin Education Checklist for tips on aseptic technique, aids for poor vision, and insulin storage, disposal, and expiration.

Key References
  • Mayo Clin Proc 2016;91(9):1231-55
  • Diabetes Educ 2016;42(4):379-94
  • Diabetes Ther 2017;8(2):221-6
Nurse’s Letter. Mar 2018, No. 340337

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