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Close up of a nurse checking a central line in a patient's arm
March 29, 2019

A united approach to central line safety

Central lines infections are one of the most common causes of patient harm in hospitals. That’s why Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) is creating a system-wide plan to reduce them. We’re the first hospital in Ontario to tackle this issue on such a broad scale.

What are central lines?

Central lines are large IVs used to get medication into the bloodstream when a patient can’t take medication by mouth. They are very important, but come with a risk of infection because they create an opening to the bloodstream. Central line infections can cause people to become very sick, require lots of tests and procedures, and need to stay longer in the hospital. In some cases, people die of central line infections.

a standard way to insert, maintain, and monitor central lines

Creating the ‘HHS way’

Typically central line infections are only tracked in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) because that is where the majority of central lines are inserted. We know how important it is to have everyone on the same page, so we’re creating an enterprise-wide approach that will be used in all units at all of our sites. A team with representatives from across HHS has taken the best of what’s being done in pockets of our organization, and created a streamlined protocol for everyone to follow. There will, of course, be exceptions for unique cases, but the aim is to have a standard way to insert, maintain, and monitor central lines across HHS, and to track infections using a central database.

Sharing improvements enterprise-wide

The project team is creating a toolkit for staff to guide how they insert and clean central lines, and how they make decisions about when to remove them. The new protocol encourages staff to have frequent conversations about whether a central line is still necessary. The best way to prevent a central line infection is to remove a central line!

In the coming months, the protocol will be piloted in select units before being rolled out across the system.

This story was selected as a winner in our Strategy in Action contest, which asks teams across Hamilton Health Sciences to share how they are putting our strategy into practice.

This initiative supports Enterprise Approach, one of four strategic directions identified in Hamilton Health Sciences’ Strategic Plan. Enterprise Approach is about leveraging our collective strengths to think and act as one hospital.