How to Care for a Patient with Intravenous Therapy

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Intravenous therapy (IV therapy) is used to deliver a variety of fluids to the body. These can range from liquid medications to blood products or supplemental nutrition. This delivery method is much faster than the oral route, as the fluids are delivered directly to the bloodstream. Taking care of a patient with an IV line involves consistent monitoring to ensure that the pathway remains accessible. Failing to do so can lead to delayed treatments and damaged veins.

  • Discuss the purpose of the IV with the patient. Keeping your patient involved in his care fosters a constructive dialogue. This increases the likelihood that the patient will comply with treatment directives. Explain the reasons why the therapy is necessary, along with a brief discussion about how the fluids work.

  • Explain ways to keep the IV operating safely and effectively. Maintaining an open IV line means the therapy can be completed as scheduled. If it becomes blocked, therapy is delayed and it may necessitate finding an alternative site, which means another needle stick for the patient. Stress the importance of keeping the IV line as straight as possible to prevent blockages. Encourage the patient to use his free arm to complete most of his activities.

  • Monitor the infusion rate. Realize that some products, such as blood, must be discarded if not promptly delivered. Checking the drip rate ensures that the therapy is being completed in a timely manner. It also alerts you to blockages. Compare the doctor's orders with the actual infusion time to ensure that they match. Adjust the infusion monitor as necessary to reach the target rate.

  • Maintain the IV site. Keep the site clean and dry. Flush the IV catheter with normal saline between active therapies to help prevent blockages. Change the tape at the site regularly to prevent the catheter from being dislodged from the vein.

  • Assess the IV site for signs of infiltration. This means that the fluid is collecting in surrounding tissues and isn't flowing through the vein as desired. Look for adverse signs including redness and swelling. Ask the patient if her IV site feels itchy or irritated, as this could indicate a problem. Discontinue IV therapy at the site if you find positive signs of infiltration. Monitor the site regularly to identify problems promptly.

Tips & Warnings

  • Placing an IV in a patient's non-dominant arm can help prevent blockages.

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