Nurses provide feedback on packaging use

Daphne Allen

January 4, 2016

3 Min Read
Nurses provide feedback on packaging use

HealthPack 2011 packed attendees in again this past March, with more input from nurses on medical device packaging preferences. This year, Jennifer Neid Benolken and Jennifer Blocher expanded their annual nurses survey to include mainly international professionals, and Benolken moderated another live nurses panel for evaluating actual packages. Feedback was frank and eye-opening, just as in past years. Benolken serves as senior packaging engineer for St. Jude Medical’s Cardiovascular Division, and Blocher is medical device applications specialist for Sealed Air Corp.’s Medical Applications Division.

Forty-two nurses participated in the 2011 survey, spanning the globe with input from India, Europe, Scandinavia, the United States, and other regions. While the team did set out initially to focus solely on Europe, it did not discount input from other regions.

Much of the findings remained consistent from those of previous surveys. A solid majority of responding nurses (78%) prefer double-barrier packaging, with 64% saying they believe it to be “more sterile.” Nurses felt that double-barrier packaging enables them “to do their jobs better.”

“When we compare this survey with the U.S.-only surveys we have done, there is a similar preference for double barrier,” Blocher pointed out to the audience.

Nurses also prefer product visibility. Eighty-five percent say that it is important to see products; all look for a “use-before date.” More than 70% find expiry dates to be helpful. More than 90% check all labels for latex content; if the label does not state whether or not latex is used, that same group checks in with the manufacturer if treating an allergic patient.

About 85% inspect sterile packages for defects, with 61% examining packages after opening for clean peel. Ninety percent question the sterility of packages with dirt or hair in them; however, 18% have used a package where sterility has been in question. Just over a quarter of the respondents discard a package when dropped.

“This year, there seemed to be fewer respondents inspecting for clean peels as well as inspecting inner layers,” Blocher added. Interestingly, 44% of the respondents report seeing packaging scuffs, while 50% report seeing packaging holes.

During the live nurses panel, which was held in a separate room and broadcast live to the HealthPack audience, participants also reported preferring a more-rigid package. “If the package is flimsy, we could drop it when flipping products,” said one nurse. Added another: “Rigid is easier to hold and it is more predictable in opening and fluidity.”

However, given the number of duties nurses are juggling, opening double packaging could take up precious time. One nurse said that “unless it is absolutely needed, because time is of the essence, double packaging may add an extra unneeded step.”

Panelists agreed that they “had too many things to open,” generating “too much garbage.” One stated that most waste goes into the “garbage, and they would like to reduce it.” She added that her department does not recycle packaging waste.
However, “opening ease outweighs waste reduction,” said another.

All spoke of preferring to open packages in one continuous, fluid motion instead of several short movements; one disliked having to reposition her hands during opening to maintain a sterile presentation.

The panel did like corner-peeling packages. One nurse disliked packages whose ends curl inside (in regards to corner tack seals on chevron pouches), fearing contamination. Another pointed out that the opening area is often too narrow to fully grasp, especially for males.
Another nurse preferred IV product packaging with perforations, but said that if the material is “too thick to pull open, she may have to use her teeth or scissors.” Another disliked hard-to-open wraps around coiled product.

While the panelists preferred illustrations instead of text for instructions for use, they reported having no formal training on recognizing symbols, even the often-used “2 with a line through it,” referring to single use.

Benolken plans to host another panel at HealthPack 2012, to be held in Albuquerque March 6-8, 2012. For more details, visit

And Benolken and Blocher will conduct another survey for 2012, surveying nurses globally. They asked audience members for translation support. To help, please contact them at [email protected] or[email protected], respectively. 

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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