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IV pump safety for patients


During treatment at St. Jude, your child may spend many hours hooked to an IV (intravenous) pump. It is important for you to know what the pump is, how it is used, and some guidelines for its safe use.

What is an IV pump and how is it used?

IV pumps are used to infuse (give) medicines to patients, through either a central venous line, subcutaneous port, PICC line, or peripheral IV line. A pump is used when it is important to give a patient a set amount of medicine at a certain rate of speed or over a set amount of time.

An IV pump is attached to a pole by a clamp on the back of the pump. The pumps used at St. Jude are called Medley® pumps. They are made by Alaris Medical. The Medley® is known as a “smart pump.” This means that it has built in computer software that can help prevent errors in dispensing medicines. When your child’s nurse programs the medicine name, dosage, and rate it should infuse, the pump will notify the nurse if there is a problem with the dosage or rate of infusion for that medicine. The Medley® pump also helps prevent medicines from infusing at an uncontrolled rate.

IV pump

Using IV pumps safely

  • The pump should remain plugged into a wall outlet when your child is in a patient room or the Medicine Room. However, the pump can be unplugged at times when your child wants to leave the room or when she needs to go to another part of the hospital for tests or procedures. The pump will run on its battery for long periods of time. 
    • When the pump is unplugged, the battery runtime will flash off and on in the bottom portion of the screen on the front of the pump. It will tell you how much time you have left before you need to plug the pump back into a wall outlet. 
    • When you are out of the room, you should check the screen often to make sure there is plenty of time on the battery. If your Battery Runtime gets low (1 hour or less), you should try to head back to your child’s room or find an outlet to use where you are. The pump battery will recharge when plugged into a wall outlet.
  • Do not allow anyone except your care provider to touch the buttons on the pump. Always tell a nurse if anyone has tampered with the pump.
  • Your pump may alarm or “beep” for a number of reasons. It will alarm if a medicine is finished infusing or if the pump detects a blockage or air in the line. Always call your nurse when the pump starts to alarm. Do not try to silence the alarm or fix the problem yourself. Most of these alarms are easily addressed. The nurses are trained to know what do for each alarm.
  • In areas where it is not possible to hook into a central call light system, a family member should remain with the patient when staff members are not in the room. When the pump starts to alarm, the family member should activate the call light to let the nurse know that the pump is alarming. Please do this as soon as your child’s pump starts to alarm, so the nurse can come promptly. Do not try to adjust the volume of the pump alarm. If it is too loud, ask your nurse for help.
  • The screen on the front of the pump has a light that allows your child’s nurse to see it clearly when room lights are low. Please do not cover the screen to block the light. The nurse must see the screen clearly to be sure the IV infusion is progressing safely. Do not hang sheets or blankets from the pole, or attach anything to the pump which would keep the nurse from having a clear view of the screen.
  • Patients sometimes like to decorate their IV poles. Please do not let your child hang heavy items on the pole that could cause it to overturn. No heavy purses or backpacks on IV poles, please!
  • Remind your child not to run with the IV pump or ride on the pole.
  • When out of the room with the pump, your child should be with an adult at all times. Be extremely careful when getting on and off the elevators.

If you have questions about IV pumps, do not hesitate to ask your child’s nurse.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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