Contaminated blood cultures pose a significant burden by subjecting children to unnecessary testing, procedures, and antibiotics and increasing health care costs. The aim of our quality improvement (QI) initiative was to decrease the percentage of contaminated peripheral blood cultures in our pediatric emergency department (ED) from an average of 6.7% to <3% over a 16-month period.
The QI initiative was implemented in the pediatric ED of a tertiary care children’s hospital. Interventions included change of the peripheral blood culture collection from a clean to a sterile process, nursing education, and individualized feedback. The primary outcome measure was the percentage of contaminated peripheral blood cultures. The process measure was the percentage of nurses who completed 75% to 100% of the steps of the sterile collection process, as measured by self-reporting in audit cards. The balancing measures were time from antibiotic ordering to time of administration and ED length of stay.
We decreased the percentage of contaminated peripheral blood cultures threefold from a baseline (June 2, 2018, to December 31, 2018) of 6.7% to 2.1% during the intervention period (January 1, 2019, to April 30, 2020). Ninety-eight percent of nurses who completed audit cards reported performing 75% to 100% of the steps of the new sterile process. There was no significant difference in the average time from antibiotic ordering to antibiotic administration or ED length of stay between the baseline and intervention periods.
Use of a sterile blood culture collection process, in addition to nursing education and individualized feedback, is an effective method to decrease peripheral blood culture contamination rates in a pediatric ED.