You know that frustrating feeling when you are looking for a gauze pad, but you can’t find it? And it turns out you can’t find it because it is listed under New Gauze or the manufacturer of the product on your inventory list? (We can almost see you nodding your head right now.) All you want to do is take care of your patient, but inventory management is making it difficult.
Maintaining supplies may be an essential part of your job as a nurse leader, but we understand it can be hard to keep up with inventory management (or influence it when you don’t control it) when you have so many other responsibilities.
Developing a strong relationship with the materials management department, taking advantage of the capabilities of digital inventory control and using a few old-fashioned tips can help you stay on top of this portion of your job, even on the craziest of days.
Here are a few tips to help nursing inventory supply and to ensure your staff is never without the supplies it needs.
Make the Most of Your Facility’s Inventory Software
Most inventory software can do much more than simply provide an up-to-date count of your supplies. Use the report function to determine when expiration dates are approaching or track the items you use the most. If you discover some items are used more often during certain months of the year, modify your orders to meet expected demand. If you don’t have access to the full range of reports, ask your materials management department to run reports based on your requested parameters. Usage reports can also help you determine which items are seldom used and can be eliminated from your orders. For example, although you have ordered six brands of latex gloves for years, you may discover your staff only uses three brands consistently.
Develop a Rapport with Materials Management Staff
Developing a strong relationship with materials management staff can be beneficial. Invite the staff to observe your nursing units and make recommendations for improving inventory management. If you’re in frequent contact with a manager or staff member in materials management, you might be the first to know that the hospital is considering changing suppliers or ordering procedures and may be asked for your opinion.
Take Advantage of Just-In-time Ordering
If space in your supply area is limited, ask your materials management department if you can use just-in-time ordering. This ordering system can help ensure you have the supplies you need when you need them, not before. Take a look at typical usage for each item per week and order just enough supplies to get you through a week or two. When you place orders weekly or bi-weekly, you won’t overstock your supply area or waste money by ordering bulk products that are never actually used.
Re-organize Your Supply Closet, If You Have One
Sometimes it seems as if supplies just disappear, even though your inventory software insists you still have them. Although theft can be a problem in some cases, the missing supplies may actually be pushed behind seldom-used items. Solve the problem by placing items frequently used together, like your topical anesthetic and IV start kit, close to each other. If all of the supplies required to perform a procedure are located in one place, your nurses won’t have to rummage through your closet looking for the things they need. Color-coding item labels can also make finding supplies easier.
Appoint a staff member to check every order you receive from materials management. Don’t just assume orders are correct. Physically count every item noted on the packing list and compare it to your original order. Also, check prices to make sure your department was charged the correct price for items.
No matter what method you use, devoting an hour or two each week to inventory management is the key to ensuring you don’t run out of the supplies you need or fill your supply closet with items that will expire before you can use them.
You can find other ways to save time while giving your patients the best possible care with The Ultimate Patient Satisfaction Checklist for Nurse Managers. Get your copy here.