Article Text

Improving non-invasive ventilation documentation
  1. Matthew Smith,
  2. Natalie Elkheir
  1. St Georges Hospital
  1. Correspondence to
    Matthew Smith mattsmith42{at}


Record keeping for patients on non-invasive ventilation (NIV) at St. Georges Hospital is poor. The initial NIV prescription is often not recorded, and changes to the NIV prescription or the rationale for the changes (ABG results) are also poorly documented. This leads to confusion for nurses/doctors as to what the correct settings are, meaning patients could receive ineffective ventilation. The use of NIV is also poorly recorded by nursing staff meaning that doctors are unsure if the prescribed NIV is being achieved. This can lead to treatment being escalated unnecessarily in the event of treatment failure.

Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) is the provision of ventilatory support in the form of positive pressure via the patient's upper airway using a mask or similar device. NIV is indicated for treatment of acute hypercapnic respiratory failure, of which there are many causes, though COPD is the indication in up to 70% of cases.[1] British Thoracic Society (BTS) guidelines for NIV suggest that the rationale for commencing a patient on NIV and the proposed settings should be clearly documented.[2] Clinicians cannot effectively tailor changes to the patients NIV settings if this information is not clearly recorded, which could lead to increased time requiring NIV or NIV failure.

Three main areas were considered important to measure for this project. The initial prescription of the NIV, changes to the NIV settings, and nursing documentation surrounding NIV. A baseline measurement of NIV documentation for two weeks found NIV documentation to globally very poor. NIV was formally prescribed 29% of the time, full detail of intended settings were documented 57% of the time, the decision to commence NIV was discussed with the respiratory consultant/SpR just 29% of the time and on no occasion was a decision regarding escalation of treatment recorded. Eighteen changes were made to the NIV settings. These were formally prescribed 22% of the time and detail of the intended settings was recorded 44% of the time. Nursing documentation included detail on the length of NIV use just 21% of the time, and comments on the NIV use were left just 33% of the time.

The intervention was a unified four page NIV prescription chart. Page 1: An area for the NIV to be initially prescribed with reminder questions for important considerations. Page 2: An area for changes to be made to the NIV settings. Page 3: An area for the most up to date NIV/respiratory plan to be documented. Page 4: Nursing documentation, with prompts for the time NIV was put on/off and for comments. The chart was printed at St Georges print services and paid for by the respiratory ward.

A further two weeks of monitoring followed after implementation of the new chart. Improvements were seen in all areas of documentation surrounding NIV. The NIV was formally prescribed 86% of the time compared to 29% pre-intervention. The NIV settings were stated 100% of the time in the initial prescription. An escalation decision was recorded 71% of the time. Changes to the NIV settings improved to 92%. Nursing documentation improved greatly. The length of the NIV use was recorded for 91% of NIV days compared to 21% previously (p<0.001), and comments on the use of NIV improved from from 33% to 98% (p<0.001). Cases where the documentation remained poor were in those patients for whom the new chart had not been used.

The implementation of a unified NIV prescription chart to be kept in the bedside notes on the respiratory ward greatly improved documentation surrounding NIV. Further work must be done to ensure that the chart is used 100% of the time. This will include adjusting the chart to reduce the workload to use it, rolling the chart out on the acute medical ward, and submitting the chart to the trust board for its acceptance as an official trust chart.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from

Supplementary materials

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.