Treating the Whole Patient, Not Just the Arm

Training students in venipuncture can be inefficient. In classrooms it may mean taking slow-moving turns on one or two simulation arms while the rest of the class idly awaits their turns.

Florida educator Ellen Chiofalo grew frustrated with that. She tried improvising with tongue depressors and string cheese to get more students more sticks. Finally she set out to invent an alternative.

From a prototype constructed using fish tubing and rubber gloves, the resulting product ultimately came to market as Nasco’s Life/form Venatech IV trainer. Today it offers a popular, low-cost alternative for IV training of EMS professionals.

Attaching easily to a patient’s arm, the Venatech depicts the main veins of phlebotomy (cephalic, basilic and median cubital) in their actual positions, and includes an arterial vessel. This lets providers work on live subjects rather than manikins, and thus helps them perfect aspects like arm positioning and simultaneously groom the important, oft-forgotten “soft” skills that accompany harder skills like venipuncture.

“The soft skills are communication skills, and it’s hard to teach those,” says Chiofalo, medical assisting program director at Keiser University and VP of Institutional Effectiveness at the Allied Health Institute. “Not everybody is well-endowed with personality. Students need to learn that how they speak and react to people is paramount to how they accomplish the procedures they’re doing and manage the situations they’re in. If you’re speaking right to someone, you can see concern in their eyes and address that while you’re doing a simulated procedure.”

The Venatech’s size and cost make it suitable for a wide range of training applications—think an entrapped patient needing extrication from a crashed vehicle or finding a vein in a moving ambulance on a bumpy road. It comes in clear, among other colors, so students can visualize what they’re doing, and its skin, veins and artery can be easily replaced.

“My students love it, because it lets them work independently,” Chiofalo says. “They can practice the skill and speak with patients while they do. It allows you to do a whole procedure—you can treat the whole patient, not just the arm.”