Request Appointment

Discharge Instructions: Using Injection Pens

Your doctor has prescribed a medication that you can give yourself using an injection pen. One medication that is commonly given with an injection pen is insulin. Injection pens are popular because they are easy to use. Also, many people prefer the appearance of the pens over syringes. Pens come disposable and nondisposable.

Disposable pens come already filled with a set amount of medication. Once you inject the medication, you throw the pen away. With nondisposable pens, you replace the medication cartridge when it is empty.

Both types of pens require a pen needle, which is screwed onto the tip of the pen before injection. Pen needles come in various lengths and thicknesses.

Gather your supplies

  • Alcohol swabs

  • Injector pen

  • Cartridge if pen is the nondisposable type

  • Puncture-proof container for used needles and disposable pens (large glass jar that has a lid)

Prepare the pen

  • Wash your hands.

  • Remove the pen cap.

  • Check the medication to verify that it's the type your doctor prescribed, that it hasn't expired, and that it's not discolored, frosted, or lumpy. If the medication doesn't look right to you, don’t use it. Get a new cartridge or a new disposable pen. Never share injection pens or medication cartridges.

  • Attach a needle to your pen. Read the directions that came with your pen; they contain steps for attaching a needle. If you’re using a nondisposable pen, don’t leave the needle attached to the pen between shots.

  • Mix the drug by rolling the pen between the palms of your hands about 20 times; you can also tip the pen back and forth.

Prime the pen and set the dose

Prime your pen and ensure that it's working by doing a trial "air shot" before actually injecting your medication. Then set the dose.

  • Dial the pen to deliver 2 or 3 units of medication.

  • Hold the pen like a pencil, with the needle pointing up.

  • Tap the barrel of the pen. This will ensure that any air bubbles in the cartridge float to the top of the cartridge.

  • Push down firmly on the pen's injector button; this will "shoot" medication into the air. You should see a couple of drops of medication come out of the needle. If nothing comes out, try doing another air shot. If medication still doesn't come out after a second try, your pen may be low on medication or the needle may not be connected properly. Refer to the troubleshooting tips in the directions that came with your pen.

  • Set your dose. Dial the pen to deliver the amount of medication you need to take. As you turn the dial, you should hear a clicking sound. Your pen is now ready to use.

Inject your medication

  • Choose an injection site. The abdomen, upper arms, thighs, and buttocks are the most common sites to use. Stay away from sites that are close to a mole or scar, or that are within 2 inches of your belly button.

  • Make sure the site is clean. Clean it with an alcohol swab. Let it dry.

  • Pinch up a fold of skin surrounding the site you've selected. Hold it firmly with one hand.

  • In the other hand, hold the injection pen like a pencil.

  • Insert the needle straight into the pinched-up skin (at a 90° angle). Thin adults or children may need to inject at a 45° angle.

  • Make sure the needle gets all the way into the fatty tissue below the skin.

  • Push the pen injection button. Unless you take a very small dose, the injection should take a  couple of seconds.

  • Let go of the skin and withdraw the needle from your skin.

After the injection

  • If you are using a nondisposable pen, remove the needle by unscrewing it.

  • Dispose of any used needles or disposable pens in the puncture-proof container.

  • Take the full container back to your healthcare facility for correct biohazard disposal.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.

When to seek medical care 

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Problems that prevent you from giving your injection

  • Bleeding at the injection site for more than 10 minutes

  • Pain at the injection site that does not go away

  • Accidental or improper injection

    • Injection of medication in the wrong area

    • Injection of too much medication

  • Rash at the injection site

  • Fever above 100.0°F (37.78°C)

  • Redness, warmth, swelling, or drainage at the injection site

  • Signs of allergic reaction (trouble breathing, hives, rash)




Was this helpful?

Yes No

Tell us more.

Check all that apply.

Last question: How confident are you filling out medical forms by yourself?

Not at all A little Somewhat Quite a bit Extremely

Thank You!

 Visit Other Fairview Sites 
(c) 2012 Fairview Health Services. All rights reserved.