What Does an Infusion Nurse Do? Interview With An Infusion Therapy Nurse
By Lee Nelson
The first day Michelle Berreth headed into her surgical unit as a student nurse, she came upon an infusion nurse hanging a patient’s antibiotics next to them.
She watched this nurse, who became her mentor, go from patient to patient to see how they were doing, and how everything was working with their IV medicines or fluids.
“I knew right there, that’s what I wanted to do. You take that passion for IV therapy in whatever setting you are in,” says Berreth, who now is educator for the Infusion Nurses Society (INS) in Norwood, Mass. “I have found that with any nursing specialty, you just know the minute you come in contact with it, that you want to do it.”
However, she has found that many nurses aren’t familiar with the terms infusion therapy or infusion nurse. But infusion therapy can involve anything from a football player playing too hard in the hot summer and needing IV fluids, or someone with a bowel problem who cannot digest food so requires nutrition through an IV.
One patient Berreth will never forget was a 16-year-old boy who had bone cancer. He had just had surgery and was dealing with chemotherapy and IV fluids at his home.
“I had just started as a home infusion nurse. It was Thanksgiving night when the boy came home, which was out in the country,” she says.
The parents were so afraid of what they were doing. But having a nurse there to set up the infusion therapy and to explain what they could expect made all the difference in the world. Berreth spent a lot of time with them making sure they were comfortable with what was going on.
“This guy was very special. I loved this kid and will never forget him. But many of my home care patients were amazing people,” she says.
How did you get involved with infusion therapy?
Berreth’s career began in a very small, rural hospital as a staff nurse. She was asked to revise the organization’s policies and procedures for infusion therapy.
“Not quite knowing what to do, I turned to a nurse that I knew was an expert in infusion nursing. She introduced me to the Infusion Nurses Society as a resource for infusion nursing standards of practice,” she says.
“Over the years, I’ve worked in many different areas (home infusion, acute care and medical oncology infusion), and infusion therapy was a part of every position I held.”
What is an infusion nurse?
An infusion nurse is a resource, advocate, mentor, and a collaborator, Berreth says.
Infusion nurses ensure that patients receiving intravenous (IV) therapy receive care that is appropriate for the therapy ordered, from choosing an appropriate infusion device to the management of that device as well as monitoring and evaluating the patient’s response to the IV therapy.
An infusion nurse can work in any practice setting where IV therapy is administered including the patient’s home, skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, clinics or offices. Most of the training is on-the-job.
What special certifications, personality traits, training, etc. does it take to become an infusion nurse?
There is no special certification to become an infusion nurse. However, there is a certification for infusion nurses. The Certified Registered Nurse Infusion (CRNI®) validates the knowledge and skills a nurse has acquired and indicates that nurse is an expert in that field.
What does the Infusion Nurses Society do for nurses?
The Infusion Nurses Society (INS) provides education, guidelines, and standards of practice that enable nurses to provide evidence-based infusion care to any patient receiving infusion therapy.
What is the salary range of an infusion nurse?
This will vary depending on location, practice setting. Certified nurses may receive additional compensation.
What is the job outlook for infusion therapy nurses?
As awareness increases about the specialty, the importance of infusion nurses to obtaining positive outcomes continues to become evident. It’s been reported that more than 90% of patients receive some sort of infusion therapy during a hospital encounter, Berreth says.
What destinations and areas of the country and the world are these jobs available?
“Infusion nursing has truly expanded globally,” she says. “Each year, there are attendees at the national conferences from many countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Japan…the list goes on. Anywhere there are patients receiving infusions is where an infusion nurse can, and should, be found.”