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Intravenous (IV) therapy involves administering fluid or medication directly into a patient’s vein. This allows the treatment to enter the bloodstream quickly and start working immediately. IV therapy is used to deliver medications, fluids, nutrients, blood products, and more. Patients receive IV therapy in hospitals, outpatient clinics, doctor’s offices, and even at home.

Administering IV therapy requires skill and vigilance. IV therapy nurses are registered nurses who specialize in initiating intravenous access and caring for patients receiving IV treatments. Their main duties include inserting peripheral and central venous catheters, monitoring IV sites, administering IV medications and solutions, and educating patients about IV care.

Responsibilities of an IV Nurse

IV nurses have a range of responsibilities before, during, and after IV therapy:

  • Patient assessment – Prior to starting an IV, the nurse will assess the patient’s health history, diagnosis, and need for IV access. They locate a suitable vein and assess for potential complications.
  • Inserting IV catheters – IV nurses are experts at inserting peripheral and central IV catheters. This involves palpating for veins, prepping the skin, and smoothly inserting the IV catheter into the best vein.
  • Connecting tubing/fluids – The nurse will connect the IV tubing, attach fluid bags, and ensure proper flow of solutions through the IV system.
  • Administering medications – Nurses administer medications, including chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, and pain relievers, through central and peripheral IV sites.
  • Maintaining the IV site – IV nurses frequently inspect the IV site for redness, swelling, infiltration, or dislodgement. They change dressings and flush lines to prevent obstruction.
  • Providing patient education – Nurses teach patients proper at-home IV care, signs of IV complications, infusion schedules, and importance of completing prescribed IV treatments.
  • Monitoring vitals and side effects – The nurse closely monitors patients’ condition before, during, and after IV therapy to watch for side effects or complications.
  • Documenting care – Clear documentation regarding IV site assessments, patient response, and nursing actions are recorded in the patient’s chart.
  • Maintaining vascular access supplies – IV nurses maintain clean, well-stocked IV supply carts. They restock supplies and order new inventory when needed.

Training and Skills for IV Nurses

To work as an IV nurse, registered nurses must pursue specialized training and certification:

  • RN license – IV nurses must hold an active, unencumbered RN license. Most have at least 2 years experience working as an RN.
  • IV certification – Many RNs get certified in intravenous therapy through their state board or national certification organizations.
  • Anatomy knowledge – Thorough knowledge of venous anatomy helps nurses insert IV catheters and troubleshoot difficult IV access.
  • Technical skills – TOP mastery palpating veins, expertly inserting various catheters, and adeptly handling IV equipment.
  • Critical thinking – IV nurses use clinical judgement to assess patients, select appropriate catheter types, rotation IV sites, and prevent complications.
  • Attention to detail – Meticulous care and close observation is needed to detect subtle signs of IV issues and minimize safety risks.
  • Calm under pressure – Steady hands and level-headed critical thinking is vital when dealing with IV crises like dislodgement, infiltration, or air embolism.

Where IV Therapy Nurses Work

IV nurses work in a variety of settings:

  • Hospitals – IV therapy is frequently used in hospitals to deliver medications, fluids, blood transfusions, chemotherapy, and more. IV nurses work in EDs, ICUs, oncology units, pediatrics, and general medical/surgical floors.
  • Outpatient clinics – Many outpatient clinics offer IV hydration therapy, Myers cocktails, vitamin infusions, and injections. IV nurses work in these clinics.
  • Home health – Home health agencies send IV nurses to patient’s homes when they require IV medications like antibiotics or other short-term IV treatments.
  • Doctor’s offices – Some physician offices hire IV nurses to start IVs before procedures or administer injectable therapies.
  • Mobile IV services – New mobile IV companies provide IV hydration and vitamin therapies at patient’s homes/offices. IV nurses work for these mobile services.

A Day in the Life of an IV Nurse

A typical day for an IV nurse may involve:

  • Arriving at work and gathering necessary IV supplies to stock their cart for the shift. This includes catheters, tubing, tape, fluids, splints, etc.
  • Reviewing each assigned patient’s health history and current prescriptions before initiating any IV therapy.
  • Assessing patients to select the most suitable veins for catheter insertion. Palpating and tracing veins with their fingers.
  • Starting new IV sites by assembling sterile equipment, prepping the skin, and expertly inserting the IV catheter into the vein.
  • Connecting IV tubing, attaching fluid bags, programming infusion pumps, and dressing the site.
  • Administering any IV fluids, medications, chemotherapy, or blood products prescribed.
  • Conducting frequent checks of the IV sites – assessing for redness, swelling, pain, discharge, or dislodgement.
  • Educating patients on proper at-home IV care and signs of complications to monitor for.
  • Answering any patient questions and addressing any discomfort at the IV site.
  • Documenting all IV procedures, hourly site checks, fluid/meds given, and patient response in the medical chart.
  • Ending of shift by restocking supplies, giving handoff report to next nurse, and documenting any outstanding IV issues.


IV therapy nurses play a critical role in healthcare delivery. Their specialized skills initiate reliable IV access to deliver vital treatments intravenously. Meticulous IV site maintenance and monitoring maximizes efficacy while reducing complications. IV nurses’ expertise enables the safe utilization of life-saving IV medications, fluids, nutrition, and more. Their comprehensive patient education also empowers patients to take an active role in their IV therapy.