Interventional radiology nurses must have acute-care experience because the conditions of their patients may change suddenly. They also work with non-emergency cases. It's a field that's constantly changing and providing many opportunities to learn and grow.
Interventional radiology nurses may be involved in about 50 different procedures, including treating an arterial blockage in the leg and "coiling" aneurysms in the brain to keep them from rupturing.
These nurses assist interventional radiologists during procedures involving all modalities of radiology, including ultrasound, CT scanning, PET CT, MRI and diagnostic X-ray, according to MaryEllen DeCuffa, RN, the interventional radiology lead nurse at St. John's Hospital in Maplewood (www.healtheast.org/st-johns).
The Right Background
The RNs must know basic and advanced life support and have critical care experience. Most of their radiology education comes on the job from preceptors and radiologists and is always changing due to technological advances. They may belong to professional organizations such as the Association for Radiologic & Imaging Nursing (www.arinursing.org), which offers certification in the field.
These nurses educate patients about each procedure, administer moderate conscious sedation for pain and relaxation, and monitor patients very carefully. "We may be the only RN in the room and the situation may change in a hurry," explains Gayle Barenz, RN, an interventional radiology nurse at United Hospital in St. Paul (www.unitedhospital.com).
Not all patients need emergency care. Some have uterine arteries blocked to prevent the growth of fibroid tumors. Cancer patients frequently need drain placements or central line insertions for chemotherapy. "The least invasive procedure for the patient is to their advantage as many of them may then be able to avoid surgery," Barenz says.
Barenz and DeCuffa had been working in critical care for many years before switching to interventional radiology. They enjoy the challenges and the variety of the work as well as the rewards.
"We see stroke patients who come in with paralysis. As RNs, we sedate and monitor these patients while the neuro-interventional radiologist often dissolves or evacuates the clot. Patients sometimes leave the room starting to move the side that was paralyzed," reports Barenz.
DeCuffa appreciates the autonomy of the position. "The doctors rely on our nursing assessments and work with us as a team to have safe patient outcomes," she says.
She also enjoys working with clients whose conditions require repeated visits, especially cancer patients. "It is an honor to get to know them and their families, and to be a part of the process they are going through," she says.
Interventional radiology nursing jobs are stable, according to Barenz, and both nurses believe it's a field that will be expanding with advances in technology and interest in less-invasive procedures. "It's a fast-moving, energetic, exciting area," DeCuffa says. "It is ever-changing and there are lots of new things going on."