Finding the right product, right away

Daphne Allen

January 4, 2016

3 Min Read
Finding the right product, right away

Emergency room nurses use packaging quite differently than operating room nurses do, and packaging and labeling could help ease medical device use in critical situations.

So found Jennifer Neid and Jennifer Blocher, who presented “Voice of the Customer” at Healthpack 2010 in March. Neid, national sales manager for T.O. Plastics Inc.’s Custom Division, and Blocher, medical device applications specialist for Sealed Air Medical, surveyed emergency room (ER) nurses about their perspectives on packaging. Neid also led four operating room (OR) nurses as they evaluated medical device packages during a live panel and later answered audience questions.

The primary concern of ER nurses appears to be quickly identifying the right products and accessing them as fast and as easily as possible, reported Blocher. “Products need to be easily identified,” she told a packed audience. “And if it is really difficult to find information on a label, it can add time.”

Accordingly, 74% of the ER nurses surveyed report that it is important to have a clear package so they can see its contents. In addition, 89% look for and read “use-before” dates on packaging and labeling; 77% reject products if the product is out of date because of sterility concerns.

Just over half of those surveyed (51.1%) need easy to read text and font on labeling, reported Blocher. “Nursing populations are aging and like larger fonts,” she said.

During the live panel, OR nurses said they would prefer expiration dates to be printed, not embossed, and in darker, larger fonts. 
Pictures on labels demonstrating product sizes or styles can be helpful, but a couple of the OR nurses weren’t familiar with commonly used medical device symbols (presumably those in ISO 15223).

Interestingly, 71% of those surveyed do not record lot numbers or products, and only 14% scan bar codes for recording information to patient records. Fifty-one percent found extra labels helpful for manually recording patient information.

OR nurses told the audience they were frustrated when inserts were placed inside sealed packages. Problems also occurred when inserts were loose inside shelf packs—a couple of the nurses said they do not even see such shelf packs.

Overlabeling of existing expiration dates to extend shelf life concerned them as well. “When in doubt, throw it out,” one nurse said. OR nurses spoke of routinely sending items discarded for sterility concerns back to central supply for reporting.

In last year’s survey of perioperative registered nurses from AORN, most most prefered double-entry trays. This year, 35.6% of ER nurses surveyed prefered a double-entry tray; 24.4% prefered a double-entry tray in pouch.

Ease of use is also important to nurses. While one OR nurse preferred a corner peel for opening packages, another said if a package did open at the corner, it should be accessible from both corners.

One OR nurse reported trouble opening very long packages, such as those for 3-ft-long devices. Another didn’t like tear-open pouches because the torn-off strip could stick to an instrument.

The good news for the medical device industry is that all panelists agreed that packaging is getting better. “And it is getting easier to open!” they said.

More nurse feedback will be featured in next year’s HealthPack scheduled for March 8-10, 2011, at the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati in Cincinnati, OH. For details, visit

About the Author(s)

Daphne Allen

Daphne Allen is editor-in-chief of Design News. She previously served as editor-in-chief of MD+DI and of Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News and also served as an editor for Packaging Digest. Daphne has covered design, manufacturing, materials, packaging, labeling, and regulatory issues for more than 20 years. She has also presented on these topics in several webinars and conferences, most recently discussing design and engineering trends at IME West 2024 and leading an Industry ShopTalk discussion during the show on artificial intelligence.

Follow Daphne on X at @daphneallen and reach her at [email protected].

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