Monday, March 10, 2014

Magnesium: Potassium’s Little Sister

student nurse, electrolytes, nurses, potassium, magnesium, renee thompson, rtconnections

Did you ever care for a patient with hypokalemia who despite multiple runs of KCl and countless mixes of Klor, the potassium level hardly moves? If so, check the patient’s magnesium level.

Because magnesium and potassium are related – just like sisters. They like to do things together. Low magnesium (hypomagnesemia) is often overlooked yet plays a powerful role in balancing other electrolytes.
If you’re chasing a patient’s potassium level, check their magnesium level. If it’s also low, you must treat the magnesium too if you want to increase the potassium level!
Several weeks ago, I received a call from the lab with a critical lab result. My patient’s potassium level was 2.5 mEq/L. Yikes! However, before I contacted the physician, I also checked to see what his magnesium level was. Yep. It was also low (sisters). I called the physician with the potassium level to which he immediately gave me an order for potassium. However, I then told him about the magnesium level (because he didn’t know) and asked that we also treat the magnesium. I got my orders for both potassium and magnesium.
This conversation did two things:
·      Effectively treated my patient
·      Allowed me to articulate my value as a nurse
Any time your patient’s potassium level is low, check their magnesium level before you call the doc. If a magnesium level wasn’t drawn, ask for one to be drawn. Remember, potassium and magnesium are like sisters – they like to do things together!
Thanks for reading and for choosing to become a nurse. I’m cheering for your success!
For more great tips and resources to help you succeed, click here!

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