The Ultimate Guide to Medical Crash Cart Preparedness

Medical crash carts are designed to be deployed in response to codes, which means they need to have everything that rapid response teams require to deal with a medical emergency. It’s not just about having the right carts. If they aren’t properly equipped, crash carts won’t do any good. This article will offer a brief but comprehensive guide to medical crash cart preparedness to help healthcare teams ensure that they have everything required to respond to crises.

What Is a Crash Cart?

A crash cart is a highly mobile medical cart that is outfitted with medications, medical supplies, and equipment that could help in a life-or-death situation. Crash carts can be found throughout most modern hospitals, but crash carts for emergency rooms are especially important. They must contain a diverse array of equipment and supplies to accommodate the largest possible range of potential uses.

When to Use a Crash Cart

As a general rule, hospital staff call codes when vital signs begin deteriorating or there is a life-or-death situation. At that point, a rapid response team will be deployed, and that’s usually who brings the crash cart. Common circumstances requiring a rapid response include:

  • Severe allergic reactions

Cardiac arrest

Respiratory arrest

Sudden, severe drop in blood pressure

Sudden, severe confusion

How to Stock and Organize a Crash Cart

While there is no standardized way to stock and organize a crash cart, there are some commonly accepted practices for making sure everything is easily available should an emergency arise. Every crash cart needs to have:

A Defibrillator

The defibrillator needs to be ready for use at any time, which means it should be kept at the top of the cart and checked daily to ensure proper function. Defibrillation pads can and should be multipurpose to handle different situations, and pediatric care facilities should have separate infant pads and paddles.

Oxygen Tank and Supplies

Oxygen supplies also need to be readily available to treat patients in respiratory distress. The supplies and valves should have multiple face mask sizes to accommodate various ages, and the tank should be secured to the side of the cart. Someone should check the pressure in the oxygen tank regularly.

Intubation Equipment

Crash carts usually feature separate drawers dedicated to intubation gear. Be sure it’s easy to access and stocked with oral and nasal airway tubes, endotracheal tubes, oxygen masks, bag valve masks, and other necessities.

IV Equipment

It’s also wise to keep a separate drawer devoted to IV equipment. It should contain spinal needles in various sizes, flush syringes, and tourniquet tubing, among other necessities. Some facilities also keep IV solutions in the drawer.

Emergency Medications

Medications are typically stored in the top drawers of a crash cart. Emergency medicines should be organized into rows within the drawers, with each containing all the medications required to meet a different purpose. Keep medications for the most urgent emergencies closer to the front for quick access.

Get and Stay Organized

Keeping a crash cart prepared isn’t just about stocking it properly and getting everything organized. It’s also about training staff to know where everything is, to check equipment such as defibrillators and oxygen tanks according to a predetermined schedule, and to replace supplies as soon as they’re depleted. Having the right carts, equipment, medications, and supplies will help, but it won’t replace the need for adequate training and education.

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