Most of us dread the thought of needles and IVs at the doctor’s office. However, if you’ve had a nurse who managed to do the job in one stick or have had the unfortunate experience of being poked several times in one visit, you know what a difference a well-trained nurse can make.
When you’ve had an IV or watched a patient on a medical drama wince through one, did you know that some nurses can focus their careers specifically on this critical skill? These nurses—vascular access nurses—have experience and often special training to make this situation and other, more advanced, techniques as painless as possible.
What is vascular access nursing? What training do these nurses have? Keep reading to learn more about this nursing specialty that isn’t for the faint of heart.
What are vascular access nurses?
As the job title suggests, vascular access nurses are focused on the tasks and skills needed for accessing a patient’s veins. That might sound simple, but there’s a lot that this entails.
These nurses start IVs as well as other difficult-to-initiate lines like peripherally inserted central catheters (PICCs) and central venous catheters (CVCs). And if a patient leaving the facility needs to have one of these lines, the vascular access nurse teaches the patient how to take care of the line at home, including the precautions to take to help prevent infection.
Through all these tasks, vascular access nurses work with doctors who tell the nurse what type of line to insert. They may also work with the radiology department to confirm the line’s placement. And obviously, they interact directly with patients when inserting lines.
You’ll find these nurses doing their job usually in hospitals, as well as surgery centers, long-term care facilities or units in nursing homes.
While this job has some similarities to IV or infusion nurses, vascular access nurses are responsible for setting up the IV line, while IV or infusion nurses are only responsible for giving a patient the medication or infusions that they need via an IV or other vascular access port.
Vascular access nurse training
What qualifications or certifications do vascular access nurses need?
The most important qualification a vascular access nurse needs is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree or an Associate’s degree in Nursing (ADN). While there are differences, both of these programs will prepare you for the world of nursing and position you to become a registered nurse (RN).
Additional professional certifications like being a Certified Registered Nurse Infusion (CRNI®) or having a Vascular Access Board Certification (VA-BC®) can set you apart and show that you’ve gone the extra mile toward this job. While these are recommendations or preferences for some jobs, other employers may require these qualifications.
Beyond certifications, having experience working with IVs and other types of vascular access is important for this career. Clinical experience in a nursing program can obviously teach you a lot about this and give you hands-on knowledge. Beyond clinicals, though, there are plenty of ways to add further experience to your resume, like working as a phlebotomist, and seeking out opportunities in units that regularly use IVs, PICC lines and CVCs—so intensive care, oncology and emergency units are all solid options for building experience.