During the past two decades, the number of RNs working in the field of interventional radiology (IR) nursing has steadily increased. As procedures become more specialized and are performed on sicker patients, registered nurses play a key role in ensuring safe outcomes.
"As nurses working in interventional radiology, we're part of the team that looks at patients from the top of their heads to the bottom of their toes," explains Douglas E. Sutton, MS, RN, manager of the interventional radiology division at Fletcher Allen Healthcare, Burlington, VT. "But instead of just snapping a film, as we do in traditional radiology, interventional radiology involves actually going into the body and doing something."
Colleen Sasso, BSN, RN, CRN, a past president of the American Radiological Nurses Association (ARNA), and charge nurse, interventional radiology, at San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center, adds:
"Interventional radiology is just what it sounds like - we're identifying an issue in a patient through imaging technology, and then providing an intervention - like stenting, draining, or inserting - that used to be done only in the operating room."
Just Like 'Star Trek'
Delma Armstrong, BSN, RN, CRN, current president of ARNA, and a nurse educator at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, describes the diversity of experiences that radiology nurses face every day:
"Interventional radiology nursing is a great place to be an universealist, as opposed to a specialist. We're part of the team caring for patients during a wide variety of procedures, from the insertion of port-caths and drainage tubes, to cutting-edge procedures, such as chemoembolization and vertebroplasty. We see patients across the age spectrum and with a huge number of diagnoses and co-morbidities."
Sue Simpson, MSN, RN, editor of Vision, the ARNA newsletter, professor of nursing education at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, CA, and a per diem radiology nurse at Tri-City Medical Center, Oceanside, is consistently amazed at advances in the field.
"Interventional radiology nursing is the closest thing to what they did on Star Trek. Remember how they'd scan the patients, and there would be some 'beep, beep, beep' sounds, and then a diagnosis and instant cure?" Simpson asks, with a longing that it were all that easy.
"Every nurse wants to see patients get up and walk out cured. And when we care for a patient during a procedure that, say, opens an artery in the foot, and that foot turns pink right in front of our eyes, it's intensely gratifying."
A Closer Eye on Patients
Lara Grinceri, RN, an IR nurse at the University of California San Diego Medical Center, emphasizes the importance of assessment skills in interventional radiology nursing.
"Many of these patients are here for interventional procedures because they were too high risk for surgery," Grinceri says, "so it's very important to carefully monitor the patients under our care."
Colin Morehouse, BSN, RN, an IR nurse at Fletcher Allen Healthcare, Burlington, VT, finds many of the skills he gained as an ED nurse translate well to the IR setting.
"I have a background in emergency nursing, so I'm used to setting up a nursing relationship, relieving fears, starting the hemodynamic monitoring, and doing a nursing assessment at the same time."
Jill Lean, BSN, RN, an IR nurse at Hoag Memorial Hospital, Newport Beach, CA, is proud of the impact her nursing skills have on patient outcomes.
"I like taking the patient through a very scary procedure by providing plenty of reassurance, administering conscious sedation, and titrating it slowly enough that the patient stays hemodynamically stable," she says. "I love patient contact, and I'm a huge patient advocate, so interventional radiology nursing lets me use all of these skills."