All About IV Pumps – Smart Pumps, Syringe Pumps, Oh My!

by | Dec 12, 2023 | New Grad Nurse, New Nurse | 0 comments

In the fast-paced and demanding world of nursing, proficiency in operating various medical equipment is crucial for providing safe and effective patient care. Among the essential tools in a nurse’s arsenal is the intravenous (IV) pump. IV pumps play a critical role in administering medications, fluids, and nutrients directly into a patient’s bloodstream, ensuring precise dosage and infusion rates.

For new nurses, understanding the different types of IV pumps and their functionalities is essential for safe and effective medication administration. This guide will provide a comprehensive overview of IV pumps, covering their types, purposes, and operational considerations.

iv pumps featured image

Basics of IV Pumps

Definition and Primary Functions of IV Pumps

According to the FDA, an infusion pump is a medical device designed to administer controlled amounts of fluids, including nutrients and medications, into a patient’s body.

Its main function is to provide the right dose of a medication or feeding formula administered in minute quantities and to dispense fluids at accurately programmed rates or automated intervals.

Infusion pumps offer an extra layer of protection by utilizing a pump to deliver a precise volume of fluid per hour, preventing the inadvertent administration of medications at an excessively slow or fast rate. 

Despite the aim of enhancing patient safety, it remains the nurse’s responsibility to accurately configure and set up the pump. Flow rates with IV pumps are generally calculated in mL/hour.

The operation of an infusion pump requires a trained user who utilizes a built-in software interface to program the rate and the duration of fluid delivery.

How to Give a Bolus with an Infusion Pump

Follow the following steps to give a bolus to a patient with an IV pump:

  1. Check the prescription and prepare the medication.
  2. Access the IV pump interface. Depending on the pump model, this may involve entering a specific mode for manual bolus administration.
  3. Set the pump to the prescribed bolus rate. This may involve inputting the desired volume, rate, and any other parameters specified by the healthcare provider.
  4. Ensure that the tubing is primed to remove any air bubbles. Follow your institution’s guidelines for priming IV tubing.
  5. Initiate the bolus by pressing the appropriate buttons on the IV pump. Monitor the infusion closely to ensure it is delivered at the prescribed rate.

How IV Pumps Improve Patient Care

Infusion pump technology was introduced to healthcare 45 years ago to enhance the safety of administering cardiovascular medications. 

Presently, the delivery of most IV fluids is crucial for a patient’s survival, making these devices invaluable aids to healthcare staff and caregivers in medical facilities. Many infusion pumps are equipped with safety features, including alarms or alerts for operators, designed to activate in case of any issues. This ensures precise control over the dose and rate of fluid delivery, thereby reducing the risk of medical errors, which, in some cases, can be fatal. Because of this, having an IV pump naturally significantly improves patient care.

Types of IV Pumps

Smart Pumps

Smart IV pumps have new technology that integrates diverse and comprehensive drug libraries, including typical concentrations, dosing units (e.g., mcg/kg/min, units/hr), and dosage limits. They offer a wide range of acceptable programming parameters. 

A systematic review found evidence that smart pumps can effectively prevent medication administration errors and clinical adverse drug events.


The beauty of smart pumps is that the newest ones have dose error reduction software (DERS). A mistake in the programmed dose can trigger either a soft alert, allowing the nurse to bypass the alert (soft limit), or a hard alert that prohibits medication delivery, with no option to override the alert.

Smart pumps can also enhance workflow and offer a fresh data source for continuous quality improvement (CQI).

Another functionality is their capacity to record all alerts. This enables a hospital to monitor programming errors or “near misses” that have been avoided, preventing potential harm to patients.

Some smart pumps come with an anesthesia option that automatically transforms a general-purpose infusion device into an “anesthesia-friendly” device.

Besides anesthesia purposes, in the NICU and ICU, these IV pumps are used to deliver medication and nutrients to patients.

In 2018, 89.5% of hospitals in the United States used smart pump technology according to a survey.

Syringe Pumps

Syringe infusion pumps find extensive use in the continuous and accurate intravenous (IV) delivery of highly concentrated drugs at low flow rates, typically ranging from 0.1 to 10 ml h−1 (microinfusion).

When you need to deliver continuous drugs with short half-lives, such as cardiovascular drugs, or deliver medications at rates less than 3mL/h, you should use a syringe pump. 

How do they work?

The syringe pump has a battery-driven motor that very slowly pushes the syringe plunger, which administers the medication via the tube, and through the needleless catheter under the skin. It reduces the need for repeated injections. The nurses need to refill the syringe daily with the medication, and it can also be used in ambulatory patients.

When multiple concurrent medications are required for fluid-restricted patients, the low flow rate ability of syringe pumps is essential for conservative fluid management.

Using syringe pumps can be tricky though, and requires good training. Take a look at these 10 tips for using syringe pumps provided by a group of experts with the goal of improving patient safety, decreasing the occurrence of dosing errors, inadvertent infusion line occlusion, and irregular, inaccurate, and delayed drug delivery.

Elastomeric Pumps

Elastomeric infusion pumps are created for the continuous administration of drugs, on-demand delivery, or a combination of both, such as patient-controlled analgesia (PCA). They are designed for one-time use and they operate without relying on external energy sources such as batteries or electricity.

How do they work?

The pumping mechanism operates through the consistent contraction of an elastomeric balloon containing the drug. Within the infusion line connected to the balloon, a flow restrictor, also known as a capillary, is present to regulate the flow rate of the elastomeric drug based on the pressure difference between its inlet and outlet.

The need for precise drug dosage estimation and the reduced margin for error make it crucial to exercise extreme caution when using elastomeric pumps in children. A case report discussed in this research paper explains that because the margin of safety in the pediatric age group is so narrow, one should consider the possibility of 15–20% inaccuracy while setting the infusor flow rate. The article also provides recommendations to prevent errors. 

Peristaltic Pumps

Peristaltic pumps represent a positive displacement pump category utilized for the transfer of various fluids. The detailed working procedure is the following:

  1. The fluid is contained within an elastic tube – which is built or installed inside a circular (or linear) pump encasement. 
  2. With peristaltic pumps, the flexible tube is compressed between the pump housing and the rollers. The rollers are housed within the pump head. 
  3. The compressed portion of the tube forces the liquid material through the tube, which delivers the desired dose of fluid.

The pump’s flow rate can be regulated by adjusting the pump size or the rotation speed of the pump head.

Main advantages: 

  • The hose prevents cross-contamination (the pump machinery doesn’t touch the fluid-in-transport). 
  • Peristaltic pumps are self-priming, capable of preventing backflow, and can accurately dispense precise liquid quantities.
  • Peristaltic pumps offer excellent flow control and flexibility, enabling precise administration of pharmaceuticals and other crucial solutions at specific doses in mL/min.

Many peristaltic pumps are volumetric and some count drops. Volumetric pumps are utilized for high-pressure drug infusion or precise fluid/drug delivery; these devices feature mechanisms to propel the solution at the intended rate under pressure.

Uses of Peristaltic Pumps

The utilization of peristaltic pumps for blood transportation dates back to 1932 when it was first pioneered, initially finding application in blood transfusions. They can be used to deliver medications, and critical fluids, and to pump blood through external filters. Thus they are used in cardiopulmonary bypass and dialysis. 

Ambulatory Pumps

An Ambulatory Infusion Pump (AIP) is a compact, battery-powered device designed to gradually administer medications such as chemotherapy or antibiotics over a specified duration, as determined by the provider. These are designed for mobility and home care settings, allowing the patient to continue with his normal activities without staying at the hospital. 

The selection of the central line will depend upon the prescribed medication and the required duration of administration. For nurses managing the infusion process, it’s essential to be aware of the various types of intravenous (IV) lines compatible with infusion pumps:

  • Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC)
  • Tunneled catheter 
  • Implanted port/passport

As a nurse, you’ll be responsible for configuring the pump to administer the medication at a specified rate, time, and volume for the patient. Once set, the pump will be linked to the patient’s IV. Once it is completed the patient returns to the health center and the nurse will disconnect the pump. 

It’s important to highlight that the pump is equipped with safety features to prevent inadvertent changes to the settings.

Sunnybrook Health Science Center provides information regarding safety tips for patients, how to bathe or sleep with the pump, emergency signs, and how to reduce chemotherapy spilling at home. It is the nurse’s responsibility to educate patients about all of these topics when placing the AIP.

Patient-Controlled Analgesia (PCA) Pumps

Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) is a pain management approach that empowers the patient to determine when to receive a dose of pain medication. With PCA, the advantage lies in not having to wait for a nurse, and the patient can opt for smaller, more frequent doses of pain medication. 

PCA is employed for the management of acute, chronic, postoperative, and labor pain. Commonly administered medications include opioids and local anesthetics, although dissociatives or other analgesics are also viable options. Compared to non-patient opioid injections, PCA has demonstrated greater effectiveness in pain control, leading to higher patient satisfaction.

How do they work?

PCA pumps have a locking device, medication chamber, programming screen, and patient button. The provider inserts a medication syringe into the pump and programs it with the prescribed initial loading dose, PCA dose, lockout interval, continuous infusion rate, and one- and four-hour limits. 

In the case of intravenous PCA, the medication line is connected to a fluid infusion line. It is best to familiarize yourself with your specific institution’s pump and protocols for PCA administration.

When employed correctly, PCA has the potential to mitigate the risks associated with opioids as it reduces the likelihood of overtreatment or undertreatment. However, it is important to explain to the patient that the handheld button should only be pressed when she/he is in pain.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, PCA has the following types of applications:

  • Hospital settings for post-surgery pain management
  • Addressing painful conditions such as pancreatitis or sickle cell disease
  • For individuals who cannot orally consume medications
  • For individuals in hospice care or those experiencing moderate to severe cancer-related pain

It’s important to note that children as young as 7 can benefit from PCA, provided they grasp the concept and can follow instructions. However, individuals who are confused, disoriented, or unresponsive are unable to use PCA. You can read more about relative and absolute contraindications here

Nurses need to frequently monitor the patient for possible side effects of opioids, the greatest problem could be respiratory depression. Also, familiarize yourself with emergency protocols in case of adverse reactions. 

Insulin Pumps

The insulin pump is an electromechanical device that mimics the body’s natural insulin secretion from pancreatic β-cells by subcutaneously delivering rapid-acting insulin both at present continuous basal rates and in extra bolus doses at mealtimes on demand. 

How do they work?

Insulin pumps allow for up to 24 different hourly basal rates in a 24-hour period. For bolus doses, pump users input their current blood glucose level and the number of carbohydrates they will consume, and the pump customizes their dose based on insulin currently on board (i.e., the remaining active insulin from the previous dose), their individualized insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio, and their individualized insulin sensitivity factor (i.e., their expected drop in blood glucose from 1 unit of insulin). 

Insulin pumps comprise a reservoir, a pump, and an infusion set. The reservoir, resembling a syringe, accommodates a 2 to 3-day insulin supply and is inserted into the battery-powered pump. 

The infusion set includes tubing connecting the reservoir to a cannula (a minute tube for subcutaneous insulin delivery), facilitating the transportation of insulin from the pump to the patient. A small adhesive piece secures the cannula in place at the insertion site. 

The needle of the infusion set can be placed in the abdomen, upper thigh, or upper arm. It’s crucial to change both the infusion set and reservoir every 2–3 days.

The pump may be integrated with the continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to effectively manage blood glucose control.

Many patients prefer this system to avoid getting frequent injections. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), these pumps can be used safely for both kids and adults with proper training. The patients must be willing to self-monitor their blood glucose levels several times per day.  

To learn more about how to educate patients and the questions you should ask to assess patients with continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII), read this article from Nursing 2023.

Medications and IV Pumps

Here are some of the most common medications administered through IV pumps:

  1. Antibiotics:
  • Vancomycin: Used to treat serious infections resistant to other antibiotics
  • Meropenem: Broad-spectrum antibiotic used for various bacterial infections
  • Gentamicin: Effective against Gram-negative bacteria, often used for pneumonia and urinary tract infections
  1. Chemotherapy Drugs:
  • Doxorubicin: Effective against various cancers, including breast, lung, and ovarian cancer
  • Vincristine: Used to treat childhood leukemia and other types of cancer
  • Cisplatin: Broad-spectrum chemotherapy drug used for various cancers, including lung, testicular, and ovarian cancer
  • Paclitaxel: Used to treat breast, lung, and ovarian cancer
  1. Pain Relief Medications:
  • Hydromorphone: Powerful opioid pain medication used for severe pain
  • Morphine: Opioid pain medication used for moderate to severe pain
  • Fentanyl: Potent synthetic opioid pain medication
  1. Fluids and Electrolytes:
  • Normal saline: Used for fluid resuscitation and electrolyte replacement
  • Lactated Ringer’s: Similar to normal saline but containing lactate, which is metabolized to bicarbonate to help regulate blood pH
  • Dextrose: Source of carbohydrates for energy and fluid replacement
  • Potassium chloride: Supplements potassium levels in the blood
  1. Other Medications:
  • Insulin: Regulates blood sugar levels in people with diabetes
  • Inotropes: Medications that increase the strength and force of heart contractions
  • Vasopressors: Medications that raise blood pressure
  • Antifungal drugs: Used to treat fungal infections, such as micafungin and amphotericin
  • Antiarrhythmic drugs: Treat irregular heart rhythms
  • Immunoglobulin drugs: IgG, IVIG, HBIG, RIG, TIG

Emphasizing accuracy and consistency in dosing is paramount in IV administration. The use of infusion pumps allows healthcare professionals to precisely control the rate and amount of medication delivered, minimizing the risk of errors and ensuring optimal therapeutic effects. This approach enhances patient safety and contributes to the overall success of medical treatments.

Clinical Applications of IV Pumps

Different types of IV pumps are utilized in different settings, among these are the following:

Hospitals: IV pumps are omnipresent in hospitals across departments, including:

  • Emergency rooms: Delivering critical fluids and medications for resuscitation and stabilization
  • Intensive care units (ICUs): Administering life-saving medications and managing complex fluid needs
  • Surgical suites: Providing accurate fluid and medication delivery during surgery
  • Oncology units: Delivering chemotherapy drugs and pain management medications
  • Neonatal intensive care units (NICUs): Delivering precise volumes of fluids and medications for fragile newborns

Ambulatory settings: IV pumps are increasingly used in:

  • Outpatient clinics: Administering medications for chronic conditions like diabetes and inflammatory diseases
  • Infusion centers: Providing specialized treatments like antibiotics and immunoglobulin therapy
  • Home care: Enabling patients to receive IV medications in the comfort of their homes

Specific Treatments and Patient Care Protocols

The use of infusion medication through an IV machine has the following treatment applications:

  1. Fluid replacement: IV pumps are essential for delivering fluids to patients experiencing dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, or volume depletion.
  2. Medication delivery: A wide range of medications are administered via IV pumps; these were discussed in the previous section.
  3. Blood transfusions: IV pumps ensure controlled transfusion of blood products for patients requiring blood volume restoration.
  4. Parenteral nutrition: Pumps deliver essential nutrients directly into the bloodstream for patients unable to absorb them through the digestive system.
  5. Pain management: Opioid and non-opioid medications can be delivered through IV pumps for effective pain control. In patient-controlled analgesia (PCA), the pumps allow patients to self-administer pain medication within prescribed limits.
  6. Chemotherapy: IV pumps are crucial for administering chemotherapy drugs in precise dosages and durations.
  7. Immunotherapy: Certain immunotherapy medications are administered via IV pumps for cancer treatment.
  8. Blood product administration: IV pumps are used to deliver blood products like platelets and plasma for patients with specific deficiencies.
  9. Postoperative care: IV fluids and pain medications are administered through pumps for optimal postoperative recovery.
  10. Contrast dye administration for imaging procedures: IV pumps deliver contrast dye for X-rays, CT scans, and other imaging studies.
  11. Blood draws: Some advanced pumps facilitate automated blood collection for laboratory testing.

In healthcare, patient care protocols involving IV pumps are established to ensure the safe and effective administration of medications and fluids. Here are key aspects of patient care protocols with IV pumps:

  • Dosage Accuracy: Patient care protocols dictate precise dosage calculations based on individual patient needs. IV pumps allow healthcare providers to program and deliver medications with accuracy, minimizing the risk of dosage errors.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Patient vitals and IV treatment responses are continuously monitored, supported by IV pumps with integrated capabilities. This allows healthcare teams to track infusion rates, detect irregularities, and promptly address issues during treatment.
  • Customized Infusion Rates: Care protocols specify customized infusion rates for medications and fluids. IV pumps offer flexibility to tailor rates to individual patient needs, ensuring optimal therapeutic effects.
  • Alarm Systems: IV pumps include alarm systems for quick detection of issues like occlusions or irregular flow rates. Adhering to care protocols involves prompt resolution of alarms to maintain patient safety.
  • Hydration Management: Protocols define fluid management strategies, with IV pumps ensuring controlled administration of fluids based on established care guidelines. This supports patients with specific hydration needs.
  • Patient Education: Healthcare providers educate patients on IV treatment purposes, potential side effects, and signs to watch for, encouraging active patient involvement in care and prompt reporting of concerns.
  • Infection Prevention: Adherence to care protocols emphasizes infection control measures during IV therapy. This includes hand hygiene, aseptic techniques during catheter insertion, and regular site assessments to prevent infections.
  • Documentation and Record Keeping: Protocols mandate thorough documentation of IV therapy details, such as medication type, dosage, infusion rates, patient responses, and observed side effects. Accurate records support continuity of care and team communication.
  • Care Transition Protocols: Protocols outline procedures for smooth patient transitions between care settings, ensuring safety during changes in IV therapy locations, such as from hospital to home care.

Choosing the Right IV Pump

Choosing the most suitable IV pump requires careful consideration of several factors, including:

  1. Patient Needs:
  • Medical condition and treatment plan: Different medical conditions and treatment protocols require specific features in an IV pump. For example, patients with chronic conditions requiring long-term infusions may benefit from portable pumps, while those in critical care settings may need pumps with advanced safety features and monitoring capabilities.
  • Age and size: Pediatric patients may require smaller pumps with specialized features for accurate medication delivery. Similarly, obese patients might need pumps with larger volume capacities.
  • Mobility and activity level: Patients with limited mobility or those who need to be mobile during treatment may benefit from portable or ambulatory pumps.
  • Patient preference and comfort: Some patients may prefer pumps with features like quiet operation or user-friendly interfaces.
  1. Medication Type:
  • Compatibility: Ensure the pump is compatible with the specific medication type and its required delivery rate, volume, and concentration.
  • Infusion protocols: Some medications require specific infusion protocols, such as tapering dosages or intermittent infusions. Choose a pump that can accommodate these protocols accurately.
  • Safety features: Certain medications require additional safety features, such as drug libraries, dose error reduction software, or pressure monitoring capabilities.
  1. Additional Considerations:

Pump features: Choose a pump with features that will meet the specific needs of your patients and your clinical setting. These features may include:

  • Portability: Is the pump lightweight and easy to transport?
  • Battery life: Does it have sufficient battery life for prolonged use?
  • Connectivity: Can it connect to other medical devices or electronic health records?
  • Alarm system: Does it have audible and visual alarms for potential errors or malfunctions?
  • User interface: Is it easy to operate and navigate for nurses and other healthcare professionals?
  • Cost: Compare the cost of different pump models and consider the long-term cost of ownership, including maintenance and service.
  • Training and support: Ensure proper training and support are available for staff using the selected pump model.

Pain Management Pumps

CADD is an acronym representing Continuous Ambulatory Delivery Device. This pump houses a cassette containing the pain medication and is slightly larger and heavier than a smartphone. The medication is linked to tubing and administered through a small needle inserted beneath the skin.

A popular brand is Smiths Medical, and some recognized models are the CADD-Solis VIPTM (Model 2120), the CADD-Legacy® PLUS (Model 6500), CADD-Legacy® PCA Pump (Model 6300), and CADD Prizm PCS II Purple Infusion Pump.

The Brand Baxter has the iPump Infusion Pump for pain management.

Insulin Pumps

Some of the most popular brands of insulin pumps in use today include:

Medtronic MiniMed, some models are: 

  • MiniMed 670G: This pump features an integrated continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and can automatically adjust insulin delivery based on real-time glucose readings.
  • MiniMed 770G: Similar to the 670G, this updated version offers a “SmartGuard” feature that can predict and prevent hypoglycemia.

Tandem Diabetes Care:

  •  t:slim X2: This pump also features an integrated CGM and offers a sleek and user-friendly interface. Its Control-IQ technology uses an advanced algorithm to automatically adjust insulin delivery based on predicted glucose levels.


  • Omnipod Dash: is unique because it’s tubeless, meaning it does not require an infusion set to be inserted under the skin.
  • Omnipod 5: is the latest version and features an integrated CGM and automated insulin delivery.

Smart Pumps

Some popular brands and models are:

1. Brand: BD Model: Alaris System

The Alaris infusion pump is equipped with a Point of Care Unit (PCU) and can be personalized by incorporating up to four modules. These modules connect to tubes and containers containing medications or other fluids, collaborating with the PCU to execute a range of functions.

2. Brand: Hospira Model: Plum A+

This cost-effective pump is a good option for hospitals on a budget.

3. Brand: ICU Medical Medfusion Model: 3500/4000

These pumps offer advanced features such as dose error reduction software and medication libraries.

4. Brand: B Braun Model: Outlook 400ES Infusion Pump

This pump can be programmed via a wireless PC or handheld device. 

5. Brand: Curlin Medical. Model: 6000 CMS Pump

This is considered a multi-therapy infusion pump.

Syringe Pumps

Here are some of the most popular brands:

1. Brand: BD Model: Alaris Syringe Pump Module

This module is compatible with the Alaris System and offers precise control over syringe infusions.

2. Brand: Hospira Model: LifeCare PCA

This patient-controlled analgesia pump allows patients to self-administer pain medication.

3. Brand: B Braun Model: Space Syringe Pump

This compact pump is ideal for use in tight spaces.

4. Brand: Baxter Model: AS50 Infusion Pump

A digital syringe pump that provides different fluids.

5. Brand: Baxter Model: PCA II Syringe Pump

For continuous and intermittent infusion of parenteral fluids in a hospital setting.

Peristaltic Pumps

Some common brands are:

  • Baxter has two models: Flo-Gard® 6201 and also the Flo-Gard® 6301 Volumetric Infusion Pumps. 
  • Masterflex has the Masterflex L/S™: Its compact size, accurate flow control, and ease of use make it a popular choice for laboratory research and analytical applications.
  • Also, this brand offers the Cole-Parmer Masterflex L/S Digital: Its digital display and programmable features offer additional precision and control, making it ideal for more advanced laboratory procedures.
  • Watson-Marlow offers the Watson-Marlow 505S: Its versatility and affordability make it a favorite for general laboratory tasks, including transferring fluids, dispensing reagents, and performing cell culture experiments.

Elastomeric Pumps

Some common brands are: 

  • Baxter: Known for their Sigma Spectrum model, which is lightweight, portable, and easy to program.
  • B. Braun: Offers various models like the Infusomat Space, Space Pilot, and Perfusor, catering to diverse needs. Infusomat Space is a popular model designed for use in pediatric and acute care facilities and serves as an excellent choice when seeking a compact and lightweight large volume infusion pump.
  • Avanos Medical: Popular for their Mediflow pump, known for its user-friendly interface and affordability.
  • Nipro Corporation: Their Nic-Inflow model is recognized for its accuracy and safety features.

Ambulatory Pumps

The most popular are:

  • Becton, Dickinson, and Company (BD): Offers the Alaris System including the Alaris Ambulatory Infusion Pump, known for its advanced features and user-friendly interface.
  • Baxter International: Their Sigma Spectrum IQ is a popular choice for ambulatory infusions, offering portability and ease of use.
  • ICU Medical: Their Plum 360 is a lightweight and portable option with a long battery life, making it ideal for ambulatory patients.
  • Smiths Medical: Their MedFusion 4000 Syringe Pump offers precise control and is suitable for a variety of ambulatory infusion needs.
  • Fresenius Kabi: Their CADD-Legacy Ambulatory Infusion Pump is a reliable option for long-term ambulatory infusions.
  • Ypsomed: Their mylife YpsoPump is an insulin pump known for its simplicity and ease of use.

Best Practices and Troubleshooting

Some general guidelines for new nurses on using and maintaining IV pumps are:

  1. Training and competency: Complete thorough training on specific IV pump models, ensuring competence in operation and troubleshooting.
  2. Read manuals: Familiarize yourself with user manuals for IV pumps to understand features, settings, and maintenance requirements.
  3. Inspect regularly: Before use, inspect the IV pump for damage or malfunctions, ensuring a clear display and proper functionality.
  4. Calibrate and check accuracy: Regularly calibrate IV pumps per manufacturer guidelines and perform accuracy checks to ensure precise medication delivery.
  5. Programming precision: Program the pump accurately with prescribed medication details, double-checking entries for precision.
  6. Secure tubing: Properly secure IV tubing to prevent kinks or obstructions, ensuring smooth medication flow.
  7. Site selection: Choose appropriate sites for IV pump placement, prioritizing patient comfort and accessibility.
  8. Monitor actively: Continuously monitor IV pumps during infusions, responding promptly to alarms and addressing issues.
  9. Clean and maintain: Follow a regular cleaning schedule and perform routine maintenance checks to address issues promptly.

IV pumps are essential medical devices, but like any equipment, they can sometimes experience problems. Here are some common issues and troubleshooting tips:


  • Occlusion alarm: This indicates a blockage in the tubing. Check for kinks, leaks, or air bubbles. Ensure the tubing is properly connected and clamped.
  • Empty container alarm: The IV fluid bag is empty. Replace the bag with a new one.
  • Low battery alarm: The pump battery is low. Replace or recharge the battery.
  • Air-in-line alarm: Air is present in the tubing. Prime the line according to the pump’s instructions.

Flow Issues:

  • Slow flow or no flow: This can be caused by an occlusion, low battery, or incorrect settings. Check the tubing, battery level, and pump settings.
  • Fast flow: This can be caused by incorrect settings or a malfunctioning pump. Verify the settings and consult the user manual or contact the manufacturer if the problem persists.

Pump Errors:

  • Dose error: The pump may be delivering the wrong medication or dosage. Check the medication, dosage, and pump settings carefully. If the problem persists, do not use the pump and contact the manufacturer.
  • Software error: The pump’s software may be malfunctioning. Try restarting the pump. If the problem persists, contact the manufacturer.

Other Issues:

  • Leaking: Check the tubing connections and replace any damaged tubing.
  • Pump not turning on: Ensure the pump is plugged in and turned on. Check the battery level and replace it if necessary.
  • Pump malfunctioning: If the pump is behaving erratically or displaying unexpected errors, do not use it. Contact the manufacturer for assistance.

Nurse tip: Something worthy of mentioning for smart pumps is the delay in wireless drug library updates, which can pose a risk to patients if the pump is configured with incorrect limit parameters during medication administration. To enhance error reduction, it is advisable to maintain an up-to-date medication library.

Here are some emerging technologies and trends shaping the future of IV pump design and functionality:

  • Wireless communication: IV pumps will seamlessly integrate with electronic health records (EHRs) and other medical devices, allowing for real-time data sharing and improved patient care coordination.
  • Remote monitoring: Healthcare professionals will be able to remotely monitor patients‘ infusion progress and vital signs, enabling earlier intervention in case of complications.
  • AI-powered decision support: Advanced algorithms will analyze patient data and suggest optimal infusion protocols, personalized medication dosages, and potential risks.
  • Automated drug library integration: Pumps will be pre-programmed with drug libraries, eliminating the need for manual entry and reducing the risk of errors.
  • Automatic closed-loop systems: These intelligent systems will automatically adjust medication delivery based on real-time patient data, providing precise and individualized therapy.
  • Biometric authentication: This technology will ensure secure access to the pump and prevent unauthorized medication administration.
  • Nanotechnology: This promising field has the potential to revolutionize drug delivery through targeted therapies and personalized medicine.
  • 3D printing: Custom-designed IV pumps could be created to meet the specific needs of individual patients.

These innovations hold immense potential to improve the safety, efficacy, and convenience of IV therapy, leading to better patient outcomes and a more efficient healthcare system.

Technological advancements in IV pumps are positioned to significantly impact nursing practices. Automation and data integration will streamline workflows, freeing up nurses’ time for direct patient care. Advanced safety features like dose error reduction software and closed-loop systems will minimize medication errors and ensure precise medication delivery, leading to improved patient outcomes. Nurses will need to embrace these advancements and acquire new skills to fully utilize these technologies and optimize patient care.

Closing Thoughts

Infusion pumps have become an indispensable tool in modern nursing practice, revolutionizing the way fluids and medications are administered. Their ability to deliver precise dosages at controlled rates has significantly improved patient care outcomes and transformed the nursing workflow. From enhancing accuracy and safety to optimizing efficiency and patient comfort, IV pumps have become invaluable assets in diverse healthcare settings. 

However, as technology continues to evolve, it’s crucial for nurses to embrace continuous learning and adaptation. By actively engaging with new advancements and staying informed about the latest innovations, nurses can harness the full potential of IV pumps and consistently deliver exceptional patient care.

We’ve explored the diverse applications and impact of IV pumps in modern healthcare. Now, we’d love to hear from you! Share your experiences and questions about IV pumps with us, that way we can all learn. 

To continue learning I recommend the following resources:

  • American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN)
  • National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)
  • Medscape, Nurses section
  • American Nurses Association (ANA)

For further training to become a Certified Infusion Registered Nurse (CIRN) review the Infusion Nurses Society site.

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Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

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