Quality use of medicines (QUM) in critical care: an imperative for best practice

Australian College of Critical Care Nurses
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Critical Care, 2001, 14 (3), pp. 122 - 126
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Quality use of medicines (QUM) as a discrete concept is gaining increasing importance in Australia and is supported by a policy platform which has federal government and health professional support. The QUM movement is also supported by a strong consumer base and this lobby group has been responsible for endorsement as a major health initiative. However, the importance of QUM to achievement of optimal patient outcomes has not achieved sufficient recognition in the critical care literature. Implicit in the discussion of QUM is the rational, ethical, safe and effective use of drugs within a best practice framework. Successful implementation of QUM requires appropriate infrastructure and the commitment and cooperation of medical, nursing and pharmacy staff. Support, education and training provide the prerequisites of knowledge, skills and awareness for quality use of medicines for all groups. An emphasis upon evidence based practice and the prevalence of polypharmacy in contemporary health care systems requires examination of factors that are barriers to best practice. QUM in critical care areas requires appropriately skilled staff who are competent to manage patients with a wide range of selected drugs, often in highly stressful situations. In many situations in critical care, the role of the critical care nurse is one of patient advocate. It is important to note that the delivery of critical care is not limited to a discrete setting and is inclusive of management at the trauma scene, assessment and delivery of care in the emergency department, through to intensive, coronary care and high dependency units. This paper presents a discussion of the concept of QUM and its relevance in the critical care context. Key theoretical, policy and research considerations for establishment of QUM in critical care are reviewed and discussed. This paper seeks to describe key issues in QUM and endorse the need for a research agenda in critical care.
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