How technology helps nurses start IVs right the first time

  • Nurses on adult inpatient floors at Edward Hospital in Naperville recently began using AccuVein, a device that illuminates veins to make it easier to start an IV or draw blood.

      Nurses on adult inpatient floors at Edward Hospital in Naperville recently began using AccuVein, a device that illuminates veins to make it easier to start an IV or draw blood. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

  • Patti Foley, nursing practice manager at Edward Hospital, demonstrates use of a vein illumination device called AccuVein on registered nurse Carly Hoban. The hospital recently expanded use of AccuVein to adult inpatient units and immediate care clinics.

      Patti Foley, nursing practice manager at Edward Hospital, demonstrates use of a vein illumination device called AccuVein on registered nurse Carly Hoban. The hospital recently expanded use of AccuVein to adult inpatient units and immediate care clinics. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/11/2015 1:51 PM

For any patient who's ever been stuck multiple times by a nurse trying to start an IV, a medical device now in widespread use at Edward Hospital in Naperville is a welcome invention.

And for any nurse who's ever felt pressured to insert an IV accurately on the first try, the device called AccuVein is a big help.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It helps you look at the veins, find a vein and look at the quality of a vein," said Juliette Jaderberg, clinical leader of the medical/surgical unit. "A lot of times you can't see or feel them, so it's able to help us."

Using safe infrared light similar to the beam of a barcode scanner at a grocery store, AccuVein illuminates a patient's blood vessels so medical professionals can see which ones would be suitable to insert an IV. The device comes mounted on a small cart so one nurse can operate it on her own, pointing it at the patient, then using the image it creates to guide her work.

AccuVein has been in use for about five years in Edward's pediatric emergency department. But the hospital recently bought 10 more of the $5,000 devices so one could be given to each unit. Soon AccuVein will be available at Edward's immediate care clinics and its emergency room in Plainfield, said Patti Foley, nursing practice manager.

At a time when hospitals are evaluated based on patient satisfaction, the technology to make starting IVs easier is significant because multiple pricks always seem to bother patients.

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"That's one thing that patients always remember is the IV start," Foley said. "If the nurse tries and is not successful, the patient remembers."

Research has found the effect is especially pronounced among kids, who will remember a painful IV start for up to a year if it's traumatic to them, said Kelly Weaver, advanced pediatric specialty leader. Using technology to make the process easier reduces anxiety for the hospital's youngest patients.

The AccuVein technology is also beneficial because today's nursing students don't practice starting IVs as many times during school as those of the past did, said Deb Kocis, director of inpatient medicine and nursing resources. Plus, an IV is often the delivery method for vital medication.

"It's a lifeline for the patient so it's super-important to be able to do this well and efficiently," Kocis said.

Some patients present more challenges for IV starts, such as those who are dehydrated, obese, elderly or undergoing chemotherapy or any treatment that requires frequent access to veins, nurses said. And some veins are better hosts for IVs than others because they are straight and wide enough to contain the IV catheter.

Carly Hoban, a registered nurse on the medical/surgical floor, said being able to see veins under the skin gives her an advantage.

"As a new nurse it's very helpful," she said. "It gives me a lot more confidence to use the vein-finder while I'm trying to start a new IV."

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