Can a medical oxygen tank be shared by two patients?

B knight asked...

I was just wondering if you happen to know what the regulations are in a hospital or nursing home regarding medical oxygen tanks (compressed). Can the medical oxygen tank be used between two different patients if it is only partially used? Since it is now considered a drug is there a regulation that it should only be used by a single patient? Thanks for your help.

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

Most nursing homes have their own policies regarding the use of oxygen tanks.  As long as the facility is following their policy and procedure, I think that reuse of the tank would be allowed.  The reusable metal cylinders that the oxygen comes in are reused all the time, as they are constantly refilled by outside companies and delivered to the nursing home for patient use.  What is important is that the oxygen tubing should be used for one patient ONLY.  Since this is the part that actually comes in contact with patient, there must be strict policies in place in each facility on how to care for the oxygen tubing. 

My other thought is that the nurses giving the oxygen should be sure that the oxygen is set at the prescribed amount between the two patients, as they could be different.   This is where the "drug" part comes into play, as the oxygen is given at a prescribed dosage.