By Ryan MacArthur |

Intravenous (IV) insertion is a procedure where a healthcare provider places an IV line into a patient’s vein to deliver drugs, medicine or fluids. Let’s take a look at the step-by-step process that most patients will experience when they receive IV therapy.




Preparation – Prior to beginning your IV insertion a healthcare professional — most likely a Registered Nurse (RN) — will review the doctor’s order, ensure proper identification of the patient, wash their hands and put on gloves. This is a great time for patients to ask questions and have the nurse explain the procedure in more detail.

Finding a good vein – The most common IV insertion sites are in the hand or in the large vein found in the bend of the elbow. Forearms, feet, the scalp, and wrists also often have good vein sites for IVs, but the ideal IV site varies from patient to patient. “Usually you can feel the vein with the tourniquet on or at least see it. I usually go for the largest vein that I can find,” says Matt Callis, a Registered Nurse with over 20 years of experience administering IV therapy.

Cleaning the area – The nurse will use an alcohol pad to wipe the area surrounding the IV site to get rid of any disease-causing bacteria. The area should be dry prior to IV insertion.

Applying the tourniquet – A tourniquet is a band that stops the flow of blood by compressing the area. In hospitals and clinics, healthcare providers often wrap a strip of rubber 5-6 inches above the IV site. This engorges the vein and makes it easier to find. According to Callis, “If the patient tenses up or is really stiff, it makes it hard to move their arms around to get to the best veins.”

Insertion – Using their free hand to anchor the vein, the RN inserts the catheter at a 20 to 30-degree angle to prevent damage to the vein. A tiny amount of blood in the catheter applicator indicates the RN made clean contact with vein.

Removing the tourniquet – Holding their thumb over the vein just above the catheter tip, the RN releases the tourniquet to resume regular blood flow.

Securing the line – The RN will then apply tape to the area around the catheter and to the IV tubing before opening the IV line to start administering fluids or medication.




Intravenous Therapy IV Insertion

How to Start an IV: Starting an IV Clinical Nursing Skills –

Photo: Houston Med Pros –

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