How to undertake intravenous infusion calculations
Intended for healthcare professionals
how to series    

How to undertake intravenous infusion calculations

Jane Brindley Senior lecturer in adult nursing, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To refresh your knowledge of the steps involved in undertaking intravenous infusion calculations

  • To understand the role of the nurse in reducing medication errors

  • To recognise the importance of organisational culture in preserving patient safety and preventing harm

Rationale and key points

This article provides a step-wise, practical approach to undertaking intravenous (IV) infusion calculations. It also explores the evidence base behind medication errors in relation to calculations.

• Medication errors are the most common type of error affecting patient safety and the most common single, preventable cause of adverse events.

• Medicines calculations can assist in preventing an inaccurate medicines dose from being administered to the patient, which could result in suboptimal therapeutic benefit and/or possible harm to the patient.

• It is crucial for IV infusion calculations to be accurate, because these medicines directly enter the venous system and generally have a prompt action. Therefore, there is limited possibility of removing the medicine if an error is made.

• Individual nurses and healthcare organisations must ensure that medicines calculation skills are developed and maintained in practice.

Reflective activity

‘How to’ articles can help to update your practice and ensure it remains evidence-based. Apply this article to your practice. Reflect on and write a short account of:

1. How this article might improve your practice when undertaking IV infusion calculations.

2. How you could use this information to educate nursing students or your colleagues on the appropriate methods to use when undertaking an IV infusion calculation.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2020.e11444

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

Brindley J (2020) How to undertake intravenous infusion calculations. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2020.e11444


Please note that information provided by Nursing Standard is not sufficient to make the reader competent to perform the task. All clinical skills should be formally assessed at the bedside by a nurse educator or mentor. It is the nurse’s responsibility to ensure their practice remains up to date and reflects the latest evidence

Published online: 13 January 2020

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