On January 25, IV Nurse Day celebrates the infusion nurses who complete the high-tech and exceedingly patient-sensitive process of infusion care.
The 2017 theme, “IV Nurses: Outstanding Skills. Outstanding Care.” gives acknowledgment to the specific skills IV nurses bring to a care team. Sponsored by the Infusion Nurses Society, this day has been an annual international event since 1980, says Mary Alexander, MA, RN, CRNI, CAE, FAAN, and chief executive officer of the society and of the Infusion Nurses Certification Corporation.
The IV Nurses Society has 7,000 members across the globe in more than 40 countries and territories outside the US. Approximately 3,500 of the members are certified as well. And they work in many settings—about half of infusion nurses work in hospitals and the other half work in alternate sites like infusion centers, physicians’ offices, or in home care settings.
“The care we provide is something all patients can relate to,” says Alexander. “Patients go into a hospital and almost everyone gets an IV.”
While IV certified nurses are not the only ones who can place an IV, the additional training gives the nurse the skills and the experience to do it well, she says. To place an IV properly, nurses must asses the patient, determine the appropriate device, and the proper management of care once the IV is in place.
As some patients can have an IV for a few short hours or in extraordinary circumstances for the rest of their lives, proper placement and care is paramount to patient comfort and safety, says Alexander. Infusion nurses are also then responsible for patient or caregiver education upon discharge. They need to convey accurate information about how to care for an IV and why it’s important for the patient to have it.
“It’s vitally important that clinicians are experienced and know what they are doing,” says Alexander. Because the lines bring solutions directly into a patient’s bloodstream, any complications can be life or death.
Patient safety is every nurse’s top concern, but infusion nurses also have a direct impact on patient satisfaction. Alexander says when patients are asked about their hospital stays, some surveys indicate the quality of food and the experience a patient had with an IV as the top influences of their overall satisfaction with the hospital.
IV Nurse Day recognizes all the work infusion nurses do, says Alexander. “We are all over the place,” she says, “You won’t find us in one specific place. We are an important part of the health care team when we are looking at the overall care of the patient.”
As part of the team, IV nurses can educate others on the team as well. Having an IV nurse on the team means the other team members are able to focus on their own tasks. Because of their experience, IV nurses save costs and labor because they generally get an IV placed correctly on the first attempt. That improves cost, reduces the risk of complications, and makes for a much happier patient.
If newer nurses are interested in this certification, Alexander strongly suggests getting some overall clinical experience prior to fulfilling the IV nurse certification process. And for nurses who are not yet certified, but interested, the Infusion Therapy Standards of Practice outlines some of the common guidelines for this specialty.
“The more you do it, the better at it you get,” says Alexander. “It’s good to recognize infusion nurses do a fabulous job and patients appreciate what we have to offer.”
Alexander notes that while some might expect IVs to eventually be replaced by a different process, she doesn’t see that happening in the very near future. And IV nurses also bring an extra component that’s hard to quantify. “To me, it’s high-touch, hands-on caring as well as high tech,” she says. “That’s extremely important.”