4 Tips for a Smooth IV for Nurses

Performing an IV accurately is one way to prove your professionalism to the patients and your fellow colleagues. Don't be surprised when I tell you that being a nurse goes beyond reading those mighty books. The goal is to be able to practicalize several medical procedures that nurses should be able to perform.

A newbie nurse might find administering an IV successfully a mountain too high to climb. Nurses in the hospital use IVs every day to infuse fluids and medications, as well as to get blood samples. While IVs are very useful, sometimes IV insertions can be complex, – especially for the new or inexperienced nurse.

Tips for a Smooth IV for Nurses

These four tips for a smooth IV for nurses will guide you to administer an IV like a pro successfully:

1. Stay calm and be prepared

Hitting the bullseye on one try will depend on the nurse’s preparation and skill. You and your patient should be composed as a nervous and rushed procedure will likely result in failure. Allay anxiety by explaining the process to the patient and determining the patient’s history with IV therapy. Ensure the patient is comfortable and sufficiently warm to prevent vasoconstriction.

2. Assess for needle phobia

Needle phobia is a response resulting from previous IV insertions. Symptoms include tachycardia and hypertension before insertion. Reassure the patient with a soothing tone, educating the patient, keeping needles out of sight until the last minute before use, and use of topical anesthetics can help manage needle phobia.

3. Feel rather than look

If you can’t see a suitable vein, trust your fingers even more than your eyes. It’s also an excellent opportunity to familiarize yourself with a suitable vein. A tendon may feel like a vein but palpating it through a range of motions may prove that it is not.

4. Use an appropriate cannula size

Match the needle and the gauge of the cannula to the size of the patient. 

Further Guidelines

You must have heard the  popular saying that" practice makes perfect." Repetition, repetition, and more repetition!!! Performing a task over and over again is one of the easiest ways to become proficient, and that certainly holds true for IV catheterizations. From finding the vein to inserting the needle, and securing the catheter, the more times you do it, the better and faster you will become at it.

To further enhance your IV skills, here are some guidelines:

Step 01

Introduce yourself to the patient.

Step 02

Ensure that you have all of your equipment and a disposable tourniquet.

Step 03

Sanitize your hands with an alcohol cleanser.

Step 04

Apply the tourniquet and re-check the vein.

Step 05

Put on your gloves, clean the patient’s skin with the alcohol wipe, and leave it to dry.

Step 06

Remove the cannula from its packaging and remove the needle cover, ensuring it does not touch the needle.

Step 07

Stretch the skin distally and inform the patient that they should expect a sharp scratch.

Step 08

Insert the needle, and bevel upwards at about 30 degrees.

Step 09

Once the flashback of blood is seen, progress the entire cannula a further 2 mm, then fix the needle, advancing the rest of the cannula into the vein.

Step 10

Release the tourniquet, then remove the needle.

Step 11

Carefully dispose of the needle in the sharps bin.

Step 12

Apply the dressing to the cannula to fix it in place and ensure that the date sticker has been completed and applied.

Step 13

Check that the use-by date on the saline has not passed.

Step 14

Dispose of your gloves and equipment in the clinical waste bin.  Thereafter, make sure the patient is comfortable.


This guide is designed for inexperienced nurses or newly inducted nurses who are faced with the challenge of a smooth IV administration. Face it Head on!

May 12, 2023

Natasha Osei

Passionate Nurse Practitioner | People person
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