When you think about an infusion nurse, the first thing that pops into your mind is one who works with patients in everything from cancer treatment to skilled nursing care. But Kristopher Hunter, BSN, RN, CRNI, VA-BC, shows that there are so many other paths an IV nurse’s career can take. Hunter works as a Senior Technical Service Engineer for 3M.
“My current infusion therapy job is unusual in that I spend a significant amount of my time in meetings discussing infusion therapy needs and trends, on the phone answering clinical questions from nurses from around the world, in the lab tinkering, or in my office working on projects like educational modules,” Hunter explains. “I occasionally travel to speak from a podium to infusion therapy or vascular access professional organizations.”
Hunter took time to answer our questions to help us celebrate IV Nurse Day. What follows is an edited version of our interview.
What does your job entail? What do you do on a daily basis?
My expertise is in care and maintenance of vascular access devices in various care settings such as acute care, long-term care, and home infusion. In my role as a senior technical service engineer at 3M, I educate and consult on infusion therapy-related topics with both nurses working clinically as well as 3M scientists, to help develop innovative solutions that keep the patient and the nurse at the forefront. One of the particular tasks I am charged with is what is known as usability engineering, a fancy term for “Can someone use this?”
I love the challenge of identifying not just how we would want nurses to use something, but how the nurses in the real world actually use tools in their day to day jobs. Little things like how one peels the liner from the dressing, or whether the antimicrobial is attached to the dressing or a separate piece, makes a huge difference in how usable a product is and how easy it is for nurses to comply with best practices.
Why did you choose this field of nursing?
Infusion therapy chose me. I started my career looking to work in cardiac critical care, but fell into a minor infusion therapy role in a skilled nursing facility when I first started out. From there I moved into acute care, and home infusion, vascular access, and outpatient infusion/oncology. I found the specialty to be extremely rewarding, as it offers a near perfect mix of technical procedural excellence—that other procedural nurses know such as in the cath lab or OR—but also retains that personal 1:1 patient care that I value. Some of my best memories from this role are the conversations with some amazing people.
What changes, if any, have occurred lately (last year or so) in being an infusion nurse?
I believe there has been an overall growing trend within infusion therapy surrounding the awareness of PIVs. As the research continues to mount we are finding that they play a much more significant role than we imagined. For many nurses the humble PIV is seen as disposable, but I have seen growing awareness around the country of changing the practice from scheduled PIV exchanges to maintaining functioning and healthy PIVs until clinically indicated.
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
Clinical practice varies greatly between hospitals, states, and regions of the country, not to mention internationally. It can be a challenge keeping on top of all the diverse needs of infusion nurses.
What are the greatest rewards?
I often hear stories from nurses, and our staff in the field, about solutions that I personally worked on that made a positive impact for patients. For example, I recently provided information about adhesives and skin-saving interventions to a nurse at a children’s hospital so she could make an educated decision on what products to use. I love how my very small contributions can help nurses improve patient’s lives.
What would you say to someone considering this type of nursing work?
Infusion therapy is a diverse specialty that affords any nurse many opportunities to explore and expand their career. If you are technically and procedurally inclined, you can focus more on vascular access. If you love the personal 1:1 connection with patients, then outpatient infusion is amazing. Infusion therapy touches nearly every other nursing specialty and offers a fantastic way to explore your nursing career.
Certification is so important—not just for your career, but the profession. It is important that we all take measures to study and improve our practice so that our patients are receiving the best possible care. I believe that certifications are a great way of showing that you are willing to go the next step. If you give IV medications or insert IVs, you are practicing infusion therapy, and I would urge nurses to look into the CRNI and VA-BC.
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