Shift Observations: That First IV Start After Vacation

photo: jparadisi 2012

Why does that very first IV start on the first shift back from a vacation always cause just a little apprehension?

My patient waits silently while I collect the supplies I need: a sterile IV pack, the angiocath, a normal saline flush. I tear a few small strips of tape and stick them to the edge of the bedside table, easily within reach, ready to secure the IV once it’s in the vein.

How many IV’s have I started over the past twenty-five years? Why does the first one after a vacation always feel like the first one ever?

My gloved fingers palpate the chosen vein one more time before I swab it clean, leaving a glistening sheen and contrasting shadow along its hill, a cairn on his forearm.

Collecting my thoughts, I focus on the vein until they are as sharp as the needle I use to puncture his skin and thread the catheter into the vein. A flash of blood tells me I’m in. Using one of the strips of tape, I secure the IV, then cover the site with a transparent dressing. It flushes easily.

I release my breath, which I realize I was holding.

I’m back.