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Do clinicians know how to use pulse oximetry? A literature review and clinical implications

journal contribution
posted on 2006-11-01, 00:00 authored by Malcolm Elliott, R Tate, Karen Page
Pulse oximerry has become one of the most commonly used tools in the clinical environment for assessing patients' oxygenation status. It is employed almost continuously in critical care areas and frequently in the general ward environment. Although it is a much better tool for determining hypoxia than the human eye, its use is limited if clinicians do not understand relevant physiological principles, such as the oxyhaemoglobin dissociation curve and the inherent limitations of the device. Furthermore, the risk for compromised patient safety is significant if clinicians fail to recognise the potential for false or erroneous readings. This paper explores the research which has examined clinicians' comprehension of pulse oximetry. Fourteen studies examining clinicians' knowledge of pulse oximerry were reviewed. These studies revealed significant knowledge deficits about pulse oximerry amongst nurses, doctors and allied health professionals, all of whom used this technology frequently. Alarmingly, those lacking an adequate understanding of pulse oximerry included senior, experienced clinicians. The studies were limited by their use of convenience sampling and small sample sizes. Further research is needed to better understand the significance of this problem and to examine how principles of pulse oximerry are taught to nurses and other health professionals at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Educators and clinicians alike must ensure that a safe level of knowledge for the use of pulse oximerry is maintained in order to ensure that patient outcomes are not compromised.

History

Journal

Australian critical care

Volume

19

Issue

4

Pagination

139 - 144

Publisher

Confederation of Australian Critical Care Nurses

Location

North Strathfield, N.S.W.

ISSN

1036-7314

eISSN

1878-1721

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2006, Confederation of Australian Critical Care Nurses

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