Postanesthesia Care Unit Discharge Delay for Nonclinical Reasons

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Discharge of patients from the postanesthesia care unit (PACU) is often delayed for nonclinical reasons. This includes organizational issues such as patient transport, times of heavy workload for the ward and PACU nursing staff, surgical wards being unable to admit the patient, and clerical or administrative delays. We undertook a prospective study to evaluate PACU patient flow and the incidence and reasons behind delayed PACU discharge for nonclinical reasons in a tertiary referral hospital. Over a 4-month period, 2,783 patients were admitted postoperatively to our PACU. Delayed discharge because of nonclinical reasons was common, occurring in 421 (15%) patients. The median time of delayed discharge was 70 minutes (range, 25 to 420 minutes). The most common reasons for delayed discharge of the patient to the ward were no bed in the designated postoperative ward for admittance (52%), ward nurses too busy to accept the patient (32%), and ward nurses' meal breaks (10%). Delayed PACU discharge for nonclinical reasons is common and occurs predominantly because of discharge planning and organizational and staffing issues in postoperative surgical wards. Improved discharge planning, restructured staffing, and alterations in operating room scheduling may minimize these nonclinical discharge delays.

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