What is a STAT dose of medication?
Reviewed and fact-checked by Giulia Guerrini, Superintendent Pharmacist. Read our editorial policy to see how we create informative, accurate content.
Here's a fact for you: did you know that delays in antibiotics administration can cause severe sepsis or septic shocks?
Sadly, severe sepsis is a major cause of mortality in the UK, claiming between 36,000 and 64,000 lives every year.
This means that the speed medications are administered is a key factor in saving as many lives as possible – and that's when STAT orders come to help.
What does 'STAT' mean and where does the term come from?
Before we dive into the topic, it's vital to understand the definition of STAT. Like many medical words, the word 'STAT' essentially comes from the Latin word "STATim" which means "as soon as possible" or "immediately".
So when a doctor’s prescription mentions a 'STAT medication', this means the drug should be administered urgently.
Where do you see the term "STAT"?
The term "STAT" is still the official term in urgent prescriptions. We might also have seen doctors in TV series such as "E.R." or "Grey’s Anatomy" run alongside patients in bed asking for a medication to be served "STAT"!
However, in real life outside of Hollywood, you only see it in electronic or written prescriptions and orders so the pharmacy knows to get it up right away.
The reason why doctors say "STAT" instead of "right now"
Well, the word "STAT" takes less time to say than "right now" because it’s shorter, and in urgent circumstances communication needs to happen extremely quickly.
In the medical world, the word became known for urgency and won't be misunderstood when terms like "hurry" or "do it now" could be. It’s very important to convery the message as quickly as possible without any doubt.
There's also a time different between "STAT" and "Right now".
While they're very similar, "STAT" means immediately and "Right now" is intended as an order that should be given within a time frame of 60 to 90 minutes.
How fast is a STAT order?
Delivering the right medications extremely quickly can save lives. It’s important to get them to anyone who needs them the most, and extremely quickly.
Some medical experts argue that the speed of a STAT order shouldn’t be more than 15 mins from order to patient.
This means that a STAT order should jump the queue or other patients waiting to be served because the situation needs to be resolved quickly. The condition of the patient requires an urgent treatment because of code blue or red.
However, in real life there are many situations in which the STAT order takes over 15 minutes to be delivered, even when situations are in code blue and red.
Which takes us to the next point: how can we improve STAT times?
How can you improve the STAT order time?
A recent research established that, on average, it takes about 30 minutes to deliver a STAT medication to a patient. In many cases, the quick delivery time can be the difference between life and death.
However, a second recent study demonstrated that by improving the quality of interventions we can also reduce the time for delivering STAT medications.
In other words, by reducing the slowing factors, doctors were able to also reduce the delivery to less than 30 minutes. Not only that, but also doctors in that same study increased the percentage of medications delivered within 30 mins from 20% to 67%.
What are the barriers preventing a faster STAT order delivery?
There are a few reasons why a STAT medication is delivered later than needed. Here are some of them.
- A doctor may not inform a nurse the STAT medication was ordered. In life-death situations, it’s hard to communicate effectively what needs to be done and in some cases, doctors don’t inform the nurse that a STAT medication is needed.
- Nurse may not scan the order in a timely manner. Even when the medication is ordered, the nurse didn’t call the pharmacy to make sure the pharmacy was aware of the order.
- Medications take time to prepare. Some STAT medications, such as antibiotics, can take time to prepare, up to 15 minutes.
- The pharmacy aid may not deliver the medication to the unit quickly. If all medications are packaged and look the same, it’s hard to identify which medication is a STAT order and which is not. So it’s a good idea to label STAT orders of a different colour than other standards medications to make sure hospital staff can identify and deliver them quickly.
Examples of medication orders and differences with STAT
In medical practice, prescriptions are frequently referred to as orders. These are the common order types and examples:
- Routine orders. A routine order is the prescription followed until another drug is administered. Example of routine order is "Syndol 2 tablets daily".
- PRN orders, also known as "As needed" are typically given to patients with symptoms such as itching, nausea or tooth pain. An example of PRN order is "Careway Paracetamol 200ml every 6 hours as needed".
- One-time orders, as the term suggests, it should be only administered once. An example of one-time order is a prescription for antibiotics for those patients recovering from surgery.
- STAT orders are, as we have seen above, a one-time order that is served immediately due to urgent circumstances. Examples of STAT orders is "Benadryl capsule STAT".
Hopefully, it's now clear what STAT orders are and why they're important in medicine. They're referred to as "immediate orders" to be given to patients in urgent circumstances, and you'll likely see them on medication orders.
We have seen how some barriers can affect the quick delivery but also how improving the delivery quality allows for a STAT order to be served within 30 mins.