Lesser known nursing careers: infusion therapy nurse

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Infusion Therapy Nurses undergo advanced training in providing nursing care for patients who require medication, fluids, therapies or nutrition to be delivered directly into their blood stream. These professionals are experts in inserting and maintaining IV lines and monitoring patients receiving the therapy. They are also called Infusion Nurses or IV Nurses.

Infusion therapy nurses work in a variety of healthcare settings and play major roles in home care and in acute care settings, especially in the field of oncology. With the introduction of this speciality, many IV treatments, which could earlier only be administered in a hospital can now be administered in the home or in ambulatory care settings under the supervision of an infusion nursing specialist.

Job Description

Most advanced care nurses are trained to insert peripheral intravenous lines to administer medications, nutrition and fluids. However, only nurses who undergo specific training in infusion therapy are qualified to administer medications through more complex infusion lines, such as central catheters that terminate in the larger veins near the heart.

Some of the responsibilities of an IV nurse include:

  • Choosing the correct site for inserting the catheter
  • Monitor the line closing, watching for signs of infection or infiltration
  • Watch for signs of blog clots or thrombosis within the vein

Infusion nurses must also carefully document where the line was placed, what sterile technique was maintained, the patient’s reaction or tolerance to the procedure and any signs of complications. In some cases, an IV nurses may also be responsible for calculating the dose of medication to be administered.

Education & Training

To become an IV nurse you will first have to complete an accredited 2 to 4-year nursing program to obtain your RN degree. After graduation, you must pass the licensing exam that qualifies you to work as a registered nurse.

Although your nursing program would have provided a foundation for intravenous practice, you will need to participate in continuing education and skill-based competency programs in order to advance to this speciality. There are several certification courses that teach you how to place different types of catheters correctly for different purposes.

As an infusion therapy nurse, you must understand the wide variety of catheter options and determine which is best for a particular treatment, patient and situation. Continuing education and certification programs provide the basis for this knowledge. Hands-on experience through a mentor or preceptor is needed as well before entering into the profession.

When starting off in intravenous therapy nursing, it is a good idea to consider a working in a large home care or acute care facility where there are likely to be more seasoned nurses available for advice and support in this highly specialised field.

Essential Skills & Attributes

Working as an infusion therapy nurses requires a high level of dexterity and skill in this particular procedure. Placing infusion catheters can be challenging in the best of situations. As an infusion nurse you will have to become skilled in placing catheters in the veins of patients who are dehydrated or who have frail vessels. Many times access points for catheter placement in these patients can be scarred. To succeed in this speciality you need a strong understanding of venous anatomy.

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