Save $1,000 by having secretaries order supplies

In 2003, the ED at Indiana University Hospital in Indianapolis finished the year $327 over budget for supplies. As of August 2004, it was $725 under budget. What made the difference? Handing over the role of supply ordering to unit secretaries.

"In my first year in a new role as an ED manager, I struggled with keeping the cost of office supplies within budget," says India Owens, RN, BSN, ED clinical manager.

The unit secretaries traditionally had ordered supplies, and this made sense as they were the closest to the actual work being done, she says. "It did not seem prudent to change the process to make myself the gatekeeper," she says. "They knew what they needed to do their work and to support the nursing staff and the physicians."

However, Owens noticed a lot of unnecessary expenditures. "For instance, each week an order would be placed for 200 3x5 index cards," she says. "When I questioned the secretaries, they told me they liked to use those for scrap paper because they were less easily misplaced."

In 2004, Owens gave ownership of the supply budget to the secretaries and called a meeting to announce the dollar amount that they had to spend for the year. She explained that it was their responsibility to manage supplies within budget and that they had free reign on what they ordered or when they ordered it, as long as they stay within that dollar amount for the year.

"I am excited to say they have taken up the challenge and have become prudent stewards of the hospital’s money," says Owens. "I have witnessed them collaboratively making decisions to purchase less expensive items than they previously chose, chiding the nurses on the number of pens they are losing, and recycling paper for scrap pads."

A side benefit is improved morale of the secretarial staff. "They feel empowered — and they know to a penny how much they still have left in their account," says Owens.

[Editor’s note: For more information, contact: India Owens, RN, BSN, Clinical Manager, Indiana University Hospital, 550 N. University Blvd., Room 1574, Indianapolis, IN 46202-5250. Telephone: (317) 278-8306. Fax: (317) 278-0943. E-mail:]