Cost-Saving Tip: Save money with Price is Right’ contest

Do you ever see nurses in your ED misusing or wasting supplies, and wish they knew what these items actually cost? Here’s a solution: Ask nurses to guess what the ED pays for various common items, suggests Patricia Carroll, RN,BC, CEN, MS, former ED nurse at Manchester (CT) Memorial Hospital and founder of Educational Medical Consultants, a Meriden, CT-based consulting company specializing in educational programs for health care professionals.

A "Price is Right" contest was held at Carroll’s former ED, with 10 products set up in a conference room for 24 hours so that every nurse had a chance to participate. "Night shifts usually get excluded from these things," she notes.

ED nurses were given sheets with each item listed and asked to guess the price of each item. (See sample contest form, below.)

"To avoid confusion, this corresponds to a display set out on tabletops, so that the nurses can see exactly what the items are," she says.

The nurse who guessed closest to correct won a prize, such as a pass for free meals in the cafeteria or a credit at the hospital gift shop, Carroll says.

The contest put an end to an expensive habit that ED nurses had, says Carroll. "The problem was that it took a while for us to get a chart when a patient was very ill and rushed in by EMS," she says.

Nurses tended to grab individually wrapped 4 x 4 gauze pads to write on at the bedside, says Carroll. "We could write on the wrappers, and they were big enough," she says. "Once nurses learned how expensive these items were, no one used them as handy note paper again."

Instead, ED nurses carried notepads or used very inexpensive paper towels for emergency charting instead, says Carroll. For your ED’s contest, do some research to find out what your department’s "budget busters" are, she says.

Your ED’s "budget-busters" might be products that are being used improperly; items that are easily broken if they are not handled with care, such as hand-held monitors or pulse oximetry sensors; nondisposable items that end up in the laundry or trash because people are careless when cleaning up; or items that are handy to have at home, such as surgical adhesive, suggests Carroll.

"The bottom line is that most nurses don’t have a clue what things cost, and therefore, don’t think twice about it," she says. "Once their eyes are opened, they realize that if money is going to replace equipment and buy twice the number the supplies that should be needed, that’s money that is not available for salaries — either raises, or additional staff positions."

[Editor’s note: For more information, contact Patricia Carroll, RN, BC, CEN, MS. E-mail: Web:

Do you have a cost-cutting tip to share with ED Nursing readers? If so, please contact Staci Kusterbeck, Editor, ED Nursing, 280 Nassau Road, Huntington, NY 11743. Telephone: (631) 425-9760. Fax: (631) 271-1603. E-mail:]