Nursing Publications


The Culture of Vascular Access Cannulation Among Nurses in a Chronic Hemodialysis Unit

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CANNT journal = Journal ACITN





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The native arteriovenous fistula (AVF) is the vascular access of choice for patients on chronic hemodialysis (HD) because of its longevity and lower complication rate. Yet from 2001 to 2004 in Canada, there has been a notable increase in both incident and prevalent central venous catheter (CVC) use with a corresponding decrease in AVF use over the same time period (Moist, Trpeski, Na, & Lok, 2008). A similar trend has been found in other countries (Moist, Chang, Polkinghorne, & McDonald, 2007). There are a number of contributing factors to low AVF use in patients on chronic hemodialysis. While some of these factors may be patient-related, nursing interventions specific to cannulation may be a contributor. To date, little is known about HD nurses' attitudes and experiences regarding cannulation. The purpose of this study was to describe the culture and everyday practices of vascular access cannulation of the AVF from the perspective of the HD nurse. An ethnographic research design was employed, utilizing qualitative methods. Ten HD nurses were interviewed using a semi-structured interview tool, and a number of themes were generated from the interviews. One overarching theme of "perpetual novice" was evident, acknowledging the failure to transition from novice to expert cannulator despite working in HD for a number of years. Other common themes that emerged from the interviews were a) the lack of fistulas, b) the fistula as a "hard sell" to patients, c) the skill of cannulation, and d) the assembly-line approach to care. As a result of a number of factors, HD nurses were unable to acquire the skills necessary to become an expert cannulator. Moreover, the decrease in opportunities to practise cannulation has resulted in wide variation in skill level among HD nurses. To improve cannulation skills and achieve successful cannulation of AV fistulas, HD nurses identified a number of educational strategies that should take place. They also identified the need for an improved documentation system in order to track cannulation-related problems. Results of this study may be helpful in understanding the culture of cannulation in a chronic HD unit and in directing future educational, supportive, and practice interventions for HD nurses.

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