Today’s observation of National IV Nurse Day marks a year filled with change, upheaval, and continuous learning like few other years.
Minority Nurse spoke with Crystal Miller RN, past president of the Infusion Nurses Society (INS) and current co-chair of its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force, to hear how the COVID-19 pandemic and the social upheaval around race has shaped the way INS is defining a path around DEI.
Above all else, the role of an infusion nurse (also known as a vascular access nurse) is one that focuses on the patient. “The pandemic has challenged us to look at the way we deliver infusion and vascular access care in our patients as never before,” says Miller.
IV nurses work in roles where taking care of immediate needs is essential, but, she says, they must constantly look at the bigger picture. “We have to look down the road so our patients get what they need from the outset,” she says. “We need to look long and hard at the best device to treat patients, especially those who are impacted by COVID-19.” A device or approach that might have worked when a patient was admitted to a facility may no longer be effective as the patient’s condition changes.
Miller is unequivocally proud of her specialty and of being part of the INS. “We are more than the equipment we use,” she says. And with vascular access as a global issue, Miller says INS decided to take a fresh look at what a global approach means to their nurses and patients.
“We’ve always been proactive in how we deliver the care we give,” she says. “We make sure the people who are at the table represent those in their areas.” Doing so makes sure INS is present and aware of diversity, equity, and inclusion issues and how they impact healthcare delivery and outcomes. “We want to make sure people have a voice,” says Miller. “And we want to make sure as an organization that every patient we see has a voice and is represented.”
DEI work is not a one-and-done deal, says Miller. “Whatever we develop and put forth, we need to make sure it’s ongoing work.” That means looking at how diversity is represented including different genders and identities, sexual preference and orientation, practice settings, and culture and race. “To the best of the abilities of our organization, we want to make sure we don’t put forth something that doesn’t consider how people feel,” she says. “We challenge others to listen with empathy and care.”
One of the best ways to learn about and to improve on DEI work is to talk with people, says Miller. Learning about what is important to people, how they do things, and how they see the world imparts the kind of detailed knowledge that can make all the difference to a patient. Once you are informed, you can always do things a little better and that gets noticed. “When you prove your credibility, there are no limits,” she says. “When you recognize things are outdated, you change them up.”
With a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, a new interaction with patients opens up, especially with those from underrepresented populations. “Patients are grateful for the advocacy,” says Miller, “because there is someone in their corner, who is advocating for them and listening to them.”
The pandemic has shifted DEI efforts in ways that no one could have predicted. Of all the different healthcare practices or interactions patients may or may not be comfortable with, the need to separate people and keep them isolated has created an enormous burden for families and healthcare staff. “There are no family members present who can speak to a patient’s preferences,” says Miller. Vascular access nurses have shifted into finding innovative techniques to overcome this barrier.
On this year’s IV Nurses Day, Miller says although the typical celebrations aren’t possible, it’s still important to honor the work infusion and vascular access nurses do. “For me personally, I think there’s so much uncertainty in work and in healthcare now—it’s good to know we get to recognize our specialty,” says Miller. “We are the best resources where vascular access is concerned and we take that very seriously.”