Pros and Cons of Becoming an IV Technician
IV technicians may insert and monitor IV equipment and medication, but they usually also work within a broader capacity, for example as licensed practice nurses (LPNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) registered nurses (RNs), medical assistants, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or as phlebotomists. It is in your best interest to know the pros and cons of being an IV technician before deciding if this is the career for you.
|Pros of an IV Technician Career|
|Faster-than-average projected growth for nurses (LVN/LPNs 25% and RNs 19%) and EMTs (23%) for the decade 2012-2022 ***|
|Can become an IV technician with just a high school diploma and a training course that may just take eight months to complete*|
|Help improve patients' health through IV treatment*|
|Work in a variety of settings (hospitals, clinics, surgical centers and doctors' offices)**|
|Opportunities to increase skills via career development courses **|
|Cons of an IV Technician Career|
|Lower-than-the-national-average salary as of 2014 for several job titles (i.e. in 2014, EMTs made a median annual salary of about $35,000 and average was $47,000)***|
|Work with patients that may be infectious (must wear goggles, gloves, masks)***|
|Work is stressful and the environment is constantly changing (may work in intensive care and may wear a pager)*|
|May work weekends, weekdays, shifts (days and nights)*|
|Stand on feet for long periods***|
Sources: *Mayo Clinic, **Anne Arundel Community College and ***U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Intravenous (IV) technicians insert a catheter into a patient's vein using a needle and then use the catheter to administer medication or fluids. As an IV technician, you monitor the insertion site and IV medication bag. Other healthcare professionals, such as RNs or doctors, may be required to supervise your work. Individuals trained in IV therapy may work in doctors' offices, clinics, hospitals, patients' homes and chemotherapy clinics.
One is rarely just an IV technician; rather, LPNs, LVNs, EMTs and medical assistants may administer IVs if they have been properly trained. Whether or not an allied health professional may initiate an IV depends on state law. For instance, some states allow LPNs to start an IV under the supervision of an RN, while other states don't. IV therapy training is part of the training programs for RNs and EMTs. RNs or EMTs may take an IV therapy course to refresh their skills in IV therapy.
Salary and Employment Outlook
Since most IV technicians are healthcare professionals, such as phlebotomists, medical assistants, LPNs, RNs and EMTs, salary is largely dependent on job title and work location. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2014, phlebotomists who work in a hospital made $15.00 an hour, in laboratories they made almost $16.00 per hour, and in a physician's office they made about $15.00 per hour. Phlebotomist working in for insurance carriers had the highest hourly wages at almost $21.00 per hour. The BLS expected faster-than-average job growth for phlebotomists (27%) from 2012-2022.
The BLS reported that licensed practical nurses made a median salary of about $42,000 as of 2014. The BLS also stated that it expected jobs for LPNs to grow by 25% from 2012-2022.
BLS anticipated faster-than-average job growth of 29% for medical assistants from 2012-2022. Additionally, medical assistants made a median annual salary of about $30,000 as of 2014, according to BLS.
EMTs were expected to also see faster-than-average job growth of 23% in the 2012-2022 decade, according to BLS. EMTs made a median salary of about $32,000 as of 2014.
What Are the Requirements?
Education requirements for IV technicians vary by state and job title. IV technician courses are mainly offered by community colleges. These courses may be geared towards certified phlebotomists, medical assistants, LPNs or LVNs, and courses may include state-specific coursework. For example, the state of Florida requires LPNs to complete a 30 hour IV course which covers topics prescribed by state law. LPNs and LVNs don't have to be certified in IV therapy, and the scope of practice for LPNs/LVNs concerning IV therapy varies by state.
An intravenous therapy course may cover topics in IV theory, along with how to insert, monitor and care for an IV line. You may also receive instruction in fluid types, infusion and mechanical pumps, types of IVs, complications, adverse reactions, drug interactions, calculations and venous access devices. You'll learn about electrolyte and fluid balance, puncture techniques, equipment and site selection. A course may include classroom instruction, demonstrations, laboratory hands-on experience and practice time. You'll likely be required to perform a specific number of veinpunctures on a patient in order to pass.
The area of IV therapy continues to change. This type of therapy is being used more frequently in ambulatory, inpatient and nontraditional settings. Continuing education courses may concentrate on advances in running an IV, pharmacology and IV therapy, drug calculations, supplies and equipment, physiology, asepsis and anatomy.
Skills important for IV healthcare workers include the ability to multi-task, follow written and verbal directions and work without supervision, along with good manual dexterity, human relations and computer skills. An IV healthcare worker may need to be skilled in using peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) lines, ports, central intravenous lines (CVCs), filters, controllers, pumps and butterfly needles.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Employers typically seek a specific type of healthcare professional, such as an LPN, LVN or medical assistant, and indicate that they require job candidates to have IV skills. The following excerpts were taken from jobs advertised in April 2012.
- A hospital in Ohio advertised for a licensed practical nurse with IV certification to help treat patients under the supervision of a doctor or RN. The candidate was required to be a licensed practice nurse with Intravenous Blood Certification.
- A medical practice in Tennessee was looking for a medical assistant to perform patient assessments, venipuncture and IV therapy.
- A pharmacy in Colorado advertised for a pharmacy technician with IV certification.
How To Stand Out in the Field
Infusion (IV) RNs can become certified through the Infusion Nurses Certification Corporation (INCC). To earn this certification, you must have at least 1,600 hours of work experience in the last two years in infusion therapy. You may work in infusion therapy in the areas of clinical practice, research, administration or nursing education. The computer exam is 3-hours long and has 170 questions.
If you are an LPN or LVN, you may seek voluntary certification from the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses. You must possess a current LPN/LVN license, as well as have completed a training program in IV therapy. You need to find a proctor to oversee your exam. The certification is good for two years. Recertification involves earning a minimum of 20 continuing education credits.
Other Careers to Consider
You may like working in the medical field, but don't want to work with patients. Another medical technician position to consider is a histotechnician. Histotechnicians work in a lab or hospital preparing slides of body tissues for pathological examination. You need a high school diploma, and you must complete a 12-month program of classroom study and practical demonstration. The American Society for Clinical Pathology found that histotechnicians made a median salary of about $47,000 as of 2011.
If you want to be involved in mixing the medication that goes into the IV package, then becoming a pharmacy technician may be a more suitable career for you. To become a pharmacy technician, you need a high school diploma. Pharmacists generally train their technicians on-the-job. You can also seek formal training at a community college or vocational institute, but it is not necessary. You need to take course(s) in aseptic technique and preparation of sterile products. You may have to seek licensure or registration, depending on state regulations. According to the BLS, pharmacy technicians made a median salary of about $29,000 as of 2011. The BLS projected a job growth of 32% for pharmacy technicians in the 2010-2020 decade.