Insulin Safety Center

Insulin Safety at the Hospital

If You Need to Be Hospitalized

If you are someone who requires insulin, one of the most important things you can do to stay safe is to have an emergency plan in case you become ill and need to be hospitalized. In preparing for such an emergency, it's important to know that you may be too ill to speak for yourself during this time. Therefore, you should always designate another individual who can assist in this process, as needed.

If you are hospitalized or admitted for any emergent situation, it will be very important for you to tell your doctor and nurse the type of insulin you take, what dose, and how you are taking the insulin. You should carry an updated list of all medicines you take at all times. Ideally, it is safest to bring your medicines and insulin into the hospital to prevent any misunderstandings. This include insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs).

It will also be helpful to provide the healthcare team with your recent blood sugar readings. However, keep in mind that your usual insulin requirement may change when you are sick or need emergent care. Be ready for potential changes in your insulin regimen that your doctor may decide are necessary given your condition.

During your hospitalization or emergent care, you (or whomever you have designated) will need to pay close attention to your care.

Safety Tips for Avoiding Errors with Insulin During Hospitalization

• Be sure the nurse confirms your identity using two identifiers administering insulin to you. For example, the nurse should ask you to state your name and date of birth while checking your identification band. Never accept an insulin injection without the nurse checking your identification band or scanning it if the hospital uses barcode scanning. Your identification band should be legible and on your body (usually on your wrist).

• Have the nurse confirm the type and dose of insulin prior to the injection. Also, request to visualize the syringe to confirm the type of insulin and the number of units you will be getting.

• Keep accurate documentation of your blood sugar results. This can serve as a double check in the event a nurse either brings you insulin you did not need or forgets to administer insulin you did need. Keeping documentation of your blood sugar results can also protect you from getting your roommate's dose of insulin instead of yours.

• If an insulin pen is used, make sure it has a label with your name on it. Insulin pens must never be used for more than one patient.

• Keep in mind that some hospitals allow and even encourage patients who are experienced in using insulin at home to self-administer their own insulin while hospitalized. If you are comfortable doing this, it is a good opportunity for you to maintain control of your own insulin and ensure you are receiving your insulin in a timely manner. You may be asked to take the insulin in front of the nurse so that it can be documented in your medical record.

• If you have special equipment you use to take your insulin, such as a pen or a pump, never assume others will know how to use them. Always try to go over instructions for use with a nurse before surgery or hospitalization. Teach a family member or friend how to give the insulin to you in case you are too sick or unable to do it yourself.

• During hospitalizations, there may be times when you will not be allowed to eat anything. For example, if you are having surgery. If this occurs, your insulin will likely need to be adjusted or held. You may need to remind staff if food is accidently brought to you or if nursing staff attempt to administer insulin to you.