Background: Greater than 90% of hospitalized patients receive some form of peripheral intravenous therapy for the delivery of fluids, medication, or parenteral nutrition. Nurses are the largest group of clinicians responsible for the placement and management of peripheral intravenous therapies. The literature suggests that many graduate nurses lack the confidence, knowledge, and ability to not only place peripheral intravenous catheters, but also adequately maintain peripheral intravenous sites. This fact, combined with the increasing acuity of hospitalized patients with multiple comorbidities, makes peripheral intravenous placement and management even more challenging. This drove a team of researchers to explore the current state of peripheral intravenous education in health care institutions and examine potential gaps in ongoing professional development and competency assessment.

Methods: A convenience sample of United States and Canadian health care institution representatives were recruited to participate in a 12-item web-based questionnaire regarding peripheral intravenous education and staff competency. Participants were recruited via the Association for Vascular Access listserv, newsletter, and annual meeting. Members were also asked to forward the recruitment e-mail to other health care institutions to ensure a representative sample.

Results: A total of 611 health care institution representatives participated in the study. The large majority (80%) worked in a health care institution with more than 150 beds. Over half (67%) indicated that they provide peripheral intravenous education to their staff using varying modalities to deliver the education. The majority (54%) of health care institutions reported spending between 1 and 5 hours on peripheral intravenous education while, alarmingly, 38% reported spending less than 1 hour on peripheral intravenous education for their staff. Despite these numbers, over half of the participants (58%) believe peripheral intravenous education is a shared responsibility between pre-licensure nursing schools and health care institutions.

Discussion: The study highlights the varying level of peripheral intravenous education and competency evaluation of staff working in health care institutions. The results suggest the need for an evidence-based, standardized peripheral intravenous curriculum that could be used in both health care institutions and nursing education programs.

Conclusion: Currently, there are inconsistencies in the peripheral intravenous education and competency programs used in health care institutions. The authors will use the results of this study to design and examine the effects of a standardized, evidence-based peripheral intravenous curriculum to assist health care professionals responsible for peripheral intravenous education and competency assessment. Given the risk for complications from peripheral intravenous therapy, it is hoped that improved peripheral intravenous education will reduce potential complications and improve patient outcomes.

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