Understanding Nursing Procedure # 7: IV Therapy

IV therapy is one of those nursing procedures everyone seems to dread. You went to nursing school to make patients feel better, not to hurt them with a big needle stick. But IV therapy is sometimes the best way to ensure that your patient gets their fluids and medications as quickly as possible.

Proper Nursing Procedure for IV Therapy

Since both you and the patient might be nervous before an IV is inserted, make sure you come prepared. You should have all the equipment on hand and ready when you walk into the room. This includes connecting the bag and administration set. Then follow these steps to IV therapy success:

  1. Introduce yourself and explain why IV therapy is needed.
  2. Place the medication bag on the stand and double check the patient information.
  3. Apply a tourniquet on the upper arm and lower the arm to encourage vein engorgement.
  4. Feel for an appropriate vein and when you find it, swab the area with an alcohol wipe.
  5. While wearing gloves, puncture the vein at a 30 to 45 degree angle. Do this quickly to reduce pain.
  6. When you see the "flashback" in the in the catheter chamber, you're in.
  7. If there is no flashback, pull back gently, then try again.
  8. Once you see the flashback, advance the catheter.
  9. Release the tourniquet and carefully remove the needle from the catheter.
  10. Tape it down and you're done.

Tricks for Easier IV Therapy

Still a bit nervous? Here are a few tricks from the seasoned pros to help make IV therapy easier:

  • Use paper tape or an "ouchless" brand. You should be grateful when it's time to remove the IV line.
  • Cut the tape before you start. There is nothing more annoying than trying to hold an IV steady while you try to rip tape with your one free hand.
  • Watch very carefully for infiltration of the vein. If the patient says it hurts, stop the drip immediately.
  • Remember the five rights: Right patient, right drug, right dose, right time, and right route.
  • If you see bright red blood in the IV, you've hit an artery. Pull the catheter immediately and apply pressure to the area.
  • A hot, moist towel works wonders for opening up the veins.

Good IV Therapy Requires Experience

You learned about IV therapy in nursing school, but good nursing procedure may require years of practice. Eventually you should learn to reduce pain and hit the vein on the first try. IV therapy is an important part of nursing, so the more time you spend honing your technique, the happier your patients should be.


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