Day in the Life of an Infusion Nurse

June 4, 2019

A lot of individuals have reached out to me on Instagram asking about my job duties as an infusion nurse and how my day differs from working on the floor. I wanted to create a photo story of my day (like this post here), but was really struggling with how to maintain privacy. So instead you will just have to deal with my descriptions.
I work at an outpatient infusion center that is located inside a hospital. Within the next five years, we will be relocating into a new building up the street from the hospital. We see anywhere from 60-90 patients a day with a typical load of 5-8 patients depending on how many nurses are working that day. We are open 7 days a week including holidays, but we take a lighter load on weekends and holidays so only 1-2 nurses work.

We work four 9-hour shifts a week and I absolutely love my new hours. I feel more human and have more energy to do things after work or interact with family and friends. However, I do miss 12 hours shifts and being able to take vacations without having to use all of my ETO (earned time off).

So here is what my typical day looks like:

0745: arrive to work and clean my desk. Patients are scheduled from 0800-1600 so arriving a few minutes early allows for me to verify that my orders are still current and to get a grasp on my day. In the outpatient world, orders are typically valid for one year and it can be easy to overlook the orders when you see them 3x a week and begin to memorize them. It is the absolute worst thing to have to tell a patient that you have to send them away because their orders expired and no one caught it early enough.

0800-1200 is typically when we have our morning patients scheduled. They try and schedule on the hour but occasionally we do have a couple half hour patients. In this time frame I will have 3-4 patients. Patients come to us for a variety of therapies including but not limited to chemotherapy, hydration, electrolyte replacement, injections such as xolair, RA/Crohn’s infusions, PICC dressing changes, port flushes, and daily antibiotics. Since we have such a wide variety, some of my patients are with me for 15 minutes or less while others can be in my care for upwards of 6 hours.

Having patients scheduled is nice in a way that I know what is happening, but it is also frustrating when patients do not show up on time or pharmacy has a delay in mixing medications. I am working on a tight time schedule so that my patients can go and enjoy life. I also have a very type A personality and have a picture in my mind of how things are going to go, mainly in terms of being able to take a break, and so when people run late or medications run late it is very difficult to adjust. I get flustered easily and remind myself to just take a deep breath throughout the day. I am also very thankful that I have amazing coworkers who will step in and help out if I need a break.

Anywhere from 1200-1330 I try and take my 30 minute lunch break. Unlike my previous position, I do not have a break nurse to take over. I try my best to eat when I have no patients, but that rarely happens. So instead I try and go when my patients are just cruising on their medications and another nurse will not have to do too many tasks. I have found that I feel more responsible for my tasks in the outpatient world and have a difficult time delgating tasks to another nurse.

From 1330-1600, I typically see 2-3 patients. The afternoons are a lot lighter and seem to be mostly injections. We do see shorter chemotherapy regimens and hydrations during this time frame as well. It just depends on how long the therapy will be. We are looking to expand our hours and hopeful that maybe more patients will be open to coming later in the day. 

As you can see my day looks a lot simpler than on the floor. And the same goes for my charting. My hospital uses EPIC and I find that it is a lot easier to use than my previous system. If you are familiar with an outpatient screen, then I am charting the visit information, visit diagnosis, reviewing allergies, ensuring vitals are charted, charting a very simple head to toe, typing a progress note, and adding any supply charges. All in all my charting for one patient probably takes 10 minutes are less.

Hope that provided you with enough of a picture of my day.

Have you ever wondered what an infusion nurse does? Here is a little snippet of what my day looks like.

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