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Infusion Therapy Moves to Outpatient Centers

As more medications become available on an outpatient basis, the boom in infusion centers bodes well for nurses wanting to work in this niche. Infusion therapy is the intravenous administration of antibiotics, chemotherapy, pain control, nutritional support or other medicines.

There are infusion centers in doctors' offices, hospitals and free-standing clinics. And some nurses travel to provide infusion as part of home health care. Patients are happy to be an outpatient and realize that up until recently. While infusion nurses deal mainly with cancer patients who require chemotherapy, they also provide antiviral therapy, hydration and electrolyte replacement, immuno suppressants, catheter care and more. They also monitor patients for severe reactions.

Chemotherapy infusions vary greatly in time and precautions. Some medications take only a few seconds to administer, others require several hours. And for certain medications, patients are sent home with a portable infusion device.

Guiding youngsters and their families through tough times is the most challenging part of my job is finding enough hours in the day to accommodate all the patients and keep everyone satisfied. Children are often afraid of the needle stick before infusion. To create a comfortable environment, the hospital's Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders provides movies, games and toys.

Adults also can be squeamish about the needle. Having a caring nurse tell them the medication's name, dosage and potential side effects can help. Patients are monitored closely during infusions, said Mary McCray, 61, a clinical coordinator at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. The variety includes kidney patients who need outpatient surgery.

"Mornings are busiest, where we can have four to five admissions within an hour," she said. "It can be challenging at times to get everyone admitted and prepared for ordered procedures and treatments."

Finding a balance between enough qualified staff and patients is a constant concern, said Cora Vizcarra, president of the 6,000-member Infusion Nurses Society and a self-employed consultant in Indianapolis. (The Infusion Nurses Certification Corporation awards a credential to nurses who meet criteria and pass an exam, she added. Nurses in their 20s may gravitate toward infusion because it generally offers weekday schedules that allow them to enjoy weekends and holidays off. But at least a year or two of more supervised experience is necessary to better meet patients' needs in this fast-paced environment, said Presbyterian's Ms. Cole.

"This is definitely not a good first job out of school," she said.

Source: Dallas Morning News, Susan Kreimer, 7/20/8