imagesq=tbnANd9GcT9UmpzRvYwbcFW3d0qK92mkqSM0IseLXYwj_9GyKTTQu8ZWuB5VQ.jpg Instilling small and diluted sodium bicarbonate into artificial airways (ETT or tracheotomy) has been said to be an outdated practice. Some research findings revealed that it predisposes patients to ventilator acquired pneumonia (VAP). Therefore, some settings no longer use it while some others find it useful, as it helps to loosen thick and stubborn secretions in the artificial airway, with good patient outcome.

However, let’s look into the scientific rationale behind the use and effectiveness of sodium bicarbonate in decreasing the viscosity of mucus.

One of the causes of thick secretions is dehydration. It can also be as a result of increased ionic calcium in the mucus. Calcium ions help to condense, package and cross-link mucus granules into goblet cells.
Bicarbonate is a chelating agent that helps to chelate calcium thus reducing the calcium in the secretion. This causes the thick secretions to become loosened, uncondensed and less viscous. Also, the chelated calcium is replaced by extracellular sodium ions which further loosens the secretion and makes it swell and watery (due to its affinity for water).

The above mechanism is such an interesting one to know. Isn’t it?

I am not making any attempt to answer the question that was raised in the beginning of this write up. I just want to ignite some passion for further study in you. Come up with your own conclusion through diligent research on this subject matter. Be scientific. Be knowledgeable. Be a good and effective nurse.

Thank you.

Feel free to share your view on this matter.





imagesq=tbnANd9GcRtBe8be13f9CuwKHugNltMCuAMymVN5gauhSLGVJ2VU-Sc9dISegGUTHRIE TEST.
Guthrie test (also known as heel prick test) is a test that helps in early detection of phenylketonuria (PKU) in neonates. It was first discovered by Dr. Robert Guthrie, a microbiologist and a physician. It is called heel prick test because blood samples for the test are usually taken from the heels of the newborn.

Phenylketonuria (PKU) is rare genetic disorder and an inborn error of metabolism of the amino acid – phenylalanine. This is as a result of deficiency of phenylalanine hydroxylase (enzyme that metabolizes the amino acid, phenylalanine), thereby leading to an increase/rise in the level of phenylalanine in the blood. The high concentration of phenylalanine in the blood can cause mental disability, brain damage or seizures at early age of the neonate or later in life. Hence, early detection of this condition is very important as it gives a better prognosis.

Phenylalanine occurs naturally in many protein-rich foods, such as milk, eggs and meat. Phenylalanine also is sold as a dietary supplement. The artificial sweetener, aspartame, which is added to many medications, diet foods and diet sodas, contains phenylalanine. Such foods and medications containing phenylalanine must be severely restricted or avoided in PKU patients.

NOTE: Guthrie test is usually done within few days (5-8 days) of neonatal life. It’s a routine test for all neonates before leaving the hospital.



imagesq=tbnANd9GcRynMnYg2dc7MNI9fCSvt37d1J1x9zFC5hUfWsk8wPxBYkE5vD-uA.jpgVasopressin (also known as anti diuretic hormone, ADH) is synthesized in the supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei of the hypothalamus, and often released into the posterior pituitary gland or neurohypophysis through the vasopressin-releasing neurons.
A TRIPHASIC response usually follows pituitary surgeries; they are:

There’s decreased release of vasopressin following pituitary surgery due to trauma or ischemia/shock of the vasopressin-releasing neurons in the hypothalamus. This results in the passage of large amount of diluted urine (polyuria) and increased thirst (polydypsia). In response to the polyuria in this phase, extracellular sodium level rises (a condition known as HYPERNATREMIA) in a bid to compensate for the water loss.

Monitor urinary output every hour.
Ensure strict intake and output monitoring.
Measure urine specific gravity.
Give fluid replacement with 5% dextrose water (free water).
Administer IV Desmopressin (DDAVP).

In this phase, there’s leakage of vasopressin from the posterior pituitary gland, leading to the excessive release of pre-synthetic vasopressin – a condition known as syndrome of inappropriate anti diuretic hormone (SIADH). This condition potentiates fluid retention; which is further complicated by the interventions given in phase one. Hyponatremia is the expected response to fluid retention. Therefore, urinary output is reduced and patient becomes oliguria.

Individuals may or may not enter this phase. It takes the death of 80-90% of vasopressin-releasing neurons to develop a chronic diabetes insipidus. The normal, uncomplicated pituitary surgery should resolve in phase two.

DDAVP means 1-Desamino 8-D Arginine Vasopressin.



Endotracheal tube (ETT) is a flexible plastic tube, usually made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), that is passed into trachea through the mouth (oral) or nose (nasal) to establish a patent airway and ensure adequate gaseous exchange or ventilation. It is also used to deliver or administer anaesthetic gases to patients during surgery.

Endotracheal tube has inner and outer diameter.  The inner diameter (ID) is the diameter of the tube lumen while the outer diameter (OD) measures the diameter of the lumen and the thickness of the tube. The size of the tube is determined by the inner diameter. For instance, if the inner diameter of a tube is 7.5mm, the tube is size 7.5.
The length/depth of the tube is how far the tube goes into the patient during intubation. The normal length for adult male is 21-22cm while that of adult female is 20-21cm. The landmark for setting the the tube at the appropriate length is the incisor or the lips. It is important to document the length used for the intubated patient. This helps to know if the tube is coming outwards or going inside, and appropriate actions taken.

BEVEL: This is slant portion found at the tip/edge of the tube. The bevel is usually LEFT-FACING instead of RIGHT-FACING. This helps easy visualization of the vocal cords during intubation and easy access into the trachea.
MURPHY’S EYE: This is an extra opening at the tip of the tube that sustains ventilation or gaseous exchange peradventure the bevel becomes obstructed by secretions or tracheal wall.
CUFF: Endotracheal tube can either be cuffed or uncuffed. Paediatrics tubes are usually uncuffed because their tracheal is easily damaged by pressure. However, children above 6years can cope with cuffed ETT. The cuff (located proximal to the tip of the tube inside the patient) is inflated by injecting pressurized air in a syringe into the PILOT BALLOON. The air will not leak even after the inflating syringe has been removed because of the ONE-WAY VALVE in the the pilot balloon. The pilot balloon, which remains outside after patient has been intubated, shows the true condition/status of the cuff (inside the patient)- whether it is inflated or deflated or leaking.

High volume – low pressure cuff and Low volume – high pressure cuff.

1. To ensure good positive pressure ventilation, especially for patients on mechanical ventilator. The inflated cuff forms a seal on the tracheal wall, thus preventing leakage of air during ventilation.
2. To prevent aspiration of regurgitated gastric content.

However, care must be taken to avoid too much or too little pressurized air. The tracheal cuff pressure must be maintained between 20-25cm of water. If the pressure exceeds 30cm of water, the cuff may burst! A MANUAL MANOMETER can be used to measure cuff pressure. In facilities where this instrument is not available, 5-10ml of air is usually injected into the pilot balloon to inflate cuff.
NOTE: “Centimetres of water” as used here, is the unit of measurement of PRESSURE. It doesn’t mean water will be used for inflation. ONLY AIR MUST BE USED TO INFLATE CUFF!

A very high tracheal cuff pressure impedes blood flow to the tracheal wall and causes tracheal ischemia or necrosis.

Risk for aspiration is high and positive pressure ventilation will not be effective as there may be leakage of air.

The endotracheal tube is a colourless plastic tube which cannot be visible on X-ray. However, for this purpose, a radio-opaque blue line runs longitudinally throughout the length of the tube to make it visible or seen on chest X-ray.

Armoured or reinforced endotracheal tube.
Laser-resistant endotracheal tube.
Double lumen endotracheal tube.
Preformed endotracheal tube e.g. RAE – Ring, Adair, and Elwyn.



In a clinical setting, the term “handover” may be used interchangeably with shift change, handoff, sign out, cross coverage or shift report.

According to Australian Medical Association (2006), clinical handover refers to the transfer of professional responsibility and accountability for some or all aspects of care for a patient, or group of patients, to another person or professional group on a temporary or permanent basis.

Handover report (verbal and written) is a tradition in Nursing profession that must be sustained and emphasized from time to time. It is worthy of note that handover report must be communicated verbally alongside a well written documentation of the report (written). And one must not contradict the other. This usually takes place at the end of every shift or during patient transfer.

A good handover is centered on enhancing continuity of patient’s care and ensuring patient’s safety. The link/connection is that continuity of clinical information is vital to patient’s safety, hence a need to be deliberate and proactive about it.

Clinical nursing handover must be seen beyond just the transfer information, but also as the transfer of responsibility and accountability of patient’s care from the outgoing nurses to the incoming nurses. Thus, effective communication is a sine qua non to attaining a good handover practice. And effective communication in turn helps in the delivery of high quality care and ensures patient’s safety.

Evidence shows that ineffective shift handover increases the risk of medication error and sentinel events, delays the course of treatment, decreases patient satisfaction, prolongs the length of hospital stay, thus increases expenditure.

The nurse, being a major stakeholder in the healthcare team, is saddled with the responsibility of mastering the dynamics of effective communication in passing across vital clinical information about the patients to her professional colleagues as well as other professionals in the healthcare team involved in patient’s care.

It is important to note that the group of nurses who are just resuming duty do not know what has happened in the previous shift. Hence, a need to be proficient in communicating and transferring clinical information in a clear, simple and unambiguous manner. Rapt attention is needed so as not to miss out on the information being passed across. Handover time must be seen as sacrosanct for all nurses because it determines how the subsequent shift would go. Incomplete tasks that need to be completed, treatment plan that is yet to be executed, investigations that must be carried out, medications that have been discontinued, patients that have been discharged – these and many others are communicated during handover.

Handover report must be detailed yet concise. The nurse must avoid beating about the bush. A well structured tool (such as ISoBAR and the likes) must be devised to help cluster and organize information to be passed on. The nursing process is another very good tool that enhances a structured handover report, as it gives a step by step (systematic) approach to the report being given and helps in prioritizing the patient needs. When a report is detailed and organized, the listeners will not be bored. If it’s brief, it’ll be interesting too.

Also, a detailed report minimizes questions since almost all relevant information pertaining to patient has been given. There will be little or no question to be asked, except for clarification.

The nurse must also endeavour to be audible. It’s frustrating to keep straining the ears during handover report. It delays the report because the listeners will always demand that the nurse recapitulates. Some may decide to keep mute so as to avoid being tagged “troublesome”. And this will not benefit the patient.

During handover, the environment must be serene. Traffic must be well controlled to avoid distractions. Patients environment must look tidy and sparkling. It’s psychologically soothing! It is therapeutic too.

Questions should be asked and clarifications made. No assumption should be made about patient’s care. Any doubt or assumption must be clarified at the time of report. Remember, it’s patient life we are talking about here, not an object!

Lastly, unnecessary interruptions must be avoided and discouraged. It disrupts the flow in communication and may destabilize the person giving report. All comments and questions should wait till the end of the report. And if any interruption must come in, it must be relevant and be in consonance with the information being shared at that particular time. The incoming nurses are advised to jott down their questions and/or comments, and ask after the report of the patient is completed.

NOTE: ISoBAR means –
Agree a plan
Read back



Graham Teasdale and Bryan J. Jennett developed the Glasgow coma scale/score in 1974. They were professors of neurosurgery in the University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK.

Glasgow coma scale (GCS) is a tool commonly used by healthcare providers, especially nurses and doctors. It is a neurological scale or scoring system that helps to assess the level of consciousness of patients and the overall status of the central nervous system.

There are three areas of examination in GCS.
1. Eye opening – E
2. Verbal response -V
3. Motor response – M
The GCS is the cumulative score of three areas of examination. Eye opening is graded from 1 to 4; verbal response from 1 to 5; motor response from 1 to 6.

E-V-M = 4-5-6

This comprises:
Spontaneous – 4
Command – 3
Pain – 2
No response – 1
Spontaneous: If patient opens eyes during assessment or by verbal arousal (for instance when his/her name is called), score 4.
Command: If patient opens eyes only when commanded to do so, score 3. For example, if the nurse says, “Mr K.B, please open your eyes” and the patient obeys the command by opening his eyes, score 3.
Pain: If patient opens eyes only to painful stimulation, score 2. This can be done through applying pressure to the nail bed or the supra-orbital notch, rubbing patient’s sternum firmly with the knuckles of closed fist, and pinching the trapezius muscles.
No response: If patient does not open eyes despite painful stimulation, score 1.

SPECIAL CONSIDERATION: Patients with peri-orbital oedema may not be able to open their eyes. In this case, the nurse scores 1 under eye opening, indicating the reason. For example:
E1 (oedema); V3; M4
GCS = 8.

This comprises:
Converses and oriented – 5
Converses but disoriented or confused – 4
Inappropriate words – 3
Incomprehensible sound – 2
No response – 1

Questions that pertain to ascertaining patient’s orientation to time, place and person, should be asked. The nurse asks questions such as “Mrs R.M, where are you now?”. If patient says, “I am in the hospital”, it shows that patient converses and is oriented. So the patient scores 5.
If the same question is asked and the patient answers, “I am inside a bus”, it shows patient is disoriented or confused, though in a conversational manner. The patient scores 4.
If patient is asked, “Prof T.Y, what time of the day are we?”, and the patient gives a response that is completely out of tune, such as, “I won a visa lottery yesterday”, the patient scores 3 because the answer is inappropriate and out of context, that is, the response is not conversational.
If patient makes incomprehensible sounds such as groaning or moaning (with or without painful stimulation), score 2.
If there’s no verbal response at all despite painful stimulation, score 1.

Patients that are intubated (with endotracheal tube or tracheotomy tube) will be scored 1 under verbal response due to their inability to speak. The nurse must indicate this in her assessment. For example,
E4; V1 (intubated); M6
GCS = 11T

This comprises:
Obeys command – 6
Localizes pain – 5
Flexion withdrawal – 4
Abnormal flexion (decorticate) – 3
Abnormal extension (decerebrate) – 2
No response – 1

If patient moves hands and legs in response to command, score 6. The nurse may put her hands in patient palm and ask patient to hold her tight.
If patient cannot obey command, the nurse inflicts pain on the patient by sternal rub or applying pressure on the nail bed or supra-orbital notch or pinching the trapezius muscles. If patient takes his hands directly to the source of pain and removes the nurses hand at the site of painful stimulation, score 5. It simply means patient is localizing pain.
In flexion withdrawal (score 4), the patient pulls the limb away (withdraws) from the painful stimulus.
Abnormal flexion is also called decortication or decorticate posturing (also called “mummy pose”). Here, the arms are adducted (drawn towards the body) and flexed. The fist is clenched and the wrist flexed and placed on the chest. This describes “mummy pose”. Also the legs are extended and internally rotated and planter-flexed. If a patient demonstrate these features, score 3. It’s a sign of damage to the cerebral cortex.
Abnormal extension is also called decerebration or decerebrate posturing. Here, the arms are extended, adducted and pronated. The wrists are flexed and the the fixed clenched and rotated outward. The legs are extended and plantar flexed. The teeth are also clenched. These features are signs of severe damage to the brain – irritation or excitation of the brainstem or lesion in the brainstem.


The motor response of patients with spinal cord injury, especially those who are paraplegic , cannot be assessed due to their motor response deficit. Therefore, it must be noted during assessment.


Head injury can be classified into three groups using the Glasgow coma scale:

GCS 13-15 (Mild head injury)
GCS 9-12 (Moderate head injury)
GCS 3-8 (Severe head injury)




An antidote is a drug or a chelating substance that counteracts the effects of another drug or a poison

ACETYLCYSTEINE: Has hepatoprotective effect. Used in acetaminophen (paracetamol) overdose/toxicity, thereby preventing liver damage or failure. Cysteine (an amino acid) helps in the synthesis of glutathione, an essential intracellular antioxidant, which protects the liver from free radicals and intracellular toxins. Acetylcysteine is also a mucolytic agent that loosens thick mucus secretions in patients with cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

ACTIVATED CHARCOAL: It is used to treat drug toxicity or poisoning. Due to its large surface area, it has the capacity to bind to toxins or poisons, thus reversing their adverse effects

ATROPINE: It is used to treat organophosphate pesticide poisoning.

DEFEROXAMINE: Used in iron or aluminum toxicity/overdose. It chelates or binds to excess iron and aluminum, thus causing their removal from the body.

DIGIBIND: Also known as Digoxin immune fab (antigen binding fragments) or Digoxin-specific antibody. It is used to treat digoxin toxicity, hence, reversing the adverse effects of digoxin overdose

DIMERCAPROL: For arsenic, gold, or inorganic mercury poisoning.

FLUMAZENIL: A selective benzodiazepines (diazepam, lorazepam, bromazepam, midazolam) antagonist. It is used in benzodiazepines overdose/toxicity.

GLUCAGON: Used to treat overdose or toxicity of beta-blockers (propranolol, metoprolol) and calcium channel blockers (nifedipine, nimodipine, amlodipine). It acts by directly increasing cardiac inotropy and increasing hepatic gluconeogenesis.

METHYLENE BLUE: For drug-induced methemoglobinemia.

NALOXONE: It is an opioid antagonist. It is used in opioid toxicity to reverse the adverse effects of opioid overdose by binding to opioid receptors.

PROTAMINE SULPHATE: Used to reverse the anticoagulant effect of heparin (that is, it is used in heparin overdose). It is derived from fish sperm, and it binds to heparin to form a stable salt.

VITAMIN K: Antidote for warfarin overdose/toxicity. It helps to reverse high INR (International Normalized Ratio) values in warfarin overdose.