“Be sure to inform the patient of the prick…”
I vaguely registered these words as I stared at the computer monitor. The presentation seemed to be dragging itself out a little, and my concentration was slipping.
“Be sure to properly dispose any blood-splattered material…”
My eyes shot open. Run that by me again? Blood-splattered material? Was I practicing to be a nurse or a butcher?
The flurry of medical terms that began erupting from the headphones about cannulation and catheters confirmed that indeed, this was IV placement training, and augmented how out of place I felt in the Mary Jane Rawlins Geertsen Nursing Learning Center.
My name is Steven Tibbitts, and I am a public relations assistant in the BYU College of Nursing. I am also a Middle East Studies/Arabic major. This means that when nursing faculty and students start talking about dyspnea and dilation, I’m usually grabbing a dictionary.
Given my non-medical background, it was decided that I would go through some of the same computer/machine training for IV placement that nursing students complete in order to write a story on the difficulty level.
Summary to the non-initiated—it’s hard. Lazy readers can stop here.
NLC Assistant Supervisor Kristen Whipple guided me through the process, giving me the same instructions she gives to normal students. The whole system is composed of a computer program and a small machine to which you administer the IV. For a nursing student to pass, they have to earn a 73% on the procedure.
I first had to watch several training videos. They made me feel good by reminding me how much easier Arabic is to understand than medical terminology.
“What does this all mean?”
Following that, an image flashed on the screen about a patient to whom I would administer an IV, complete with a backstory about the accident that put her in the hospital. I could not help but think that the accident might not wind up being the worst part of her day by the time we were done.
It was time to get down to business. I selected the mid-arm as the injection point, and then scrambled to figure out what supplies I would require, my lack of understanding evident in the questions I asked myself aloud. How many needles? Which kind? Wait, IV needles come in gauges? (Nursing students, try not to mock me too much here.)
The program then had me prepare to administer the IV, first by informing the patient of the impending procedure, and then putting on rubber gloves with a satisfying snap. It then instructed me to test the viability of my selected injection site. This was accomplished by touching the part of the machine that mimicked human skin and feeling the pulse that it generated.
Easy, I thought, just like surgery class in first grade when Miss Conn taught us how to identify strong blood flow by palpating the patient’s veins…wait…
With a site selected, I washed it on the computer and then realized that it was actually time to use the pointy thing. I apologized profusely to the imaginary patient, picked up the needle, and gingerly began to maneuver it into the hole on the machine that represented the insertion point. I watched my progress on the screen, realizing that most likely a real patient would be filling out lawsuit papers by now with the arm that I had not maimed. However, after some fiddling, I did manage to place the catheter.
About that point, I remembered that I needed to warn the patient that I was going to place the IV, so they received a heads up a solid two minutes after the fact.
As you might guess, my initial score was not superb. The report had many tips that Whipple helped me understand, like not moving the needle back and forth in the vein (be grateful that I will never be a nurse) and warning the patient before I poke them.
I practiced several times, achieved a 92 on the third, and then called it quits when my scores began precipitously plummeting to the 60s. In fact, I never managed to completely the procedure successfully by the program’s standards. One of the times even resulted in the patient bleeding profusely (this attempt is highlighted in the above video).
While I was contemplating my failure, Whipple explained to me the same thing that she does to Type A nursing students who get only a 73.
Obviously, the computer program is not a real patient. It is like a nursing video game whose purpose is to initiate students into IV training. This training is coupled with practicing on manikin arms and other materials, so the skill is finely honed during first semester, despite what people’s initial results may be with the machine. It is all about practice.
The experience showed me that a) I’m happy to stick with العربي and b) nursing students are very well trained and capable. Their program is rigorous and ensures that students are able to provide care in an effective way, all with the Spirit. The BYU College of Nursing holds its students to a high standard, which translates into better patient care and safer medical practices.
In summary, if you’re in a hospital and you find a BYU College of Nursing graduate administering your IV, rest easy, you’re in good hands.
If it’s me, run for the hills.