1. Alexander, Mary MA, RN, CRNI(R), CAE INS Chief Executive Officer

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Although it's important to set our sights on the future, reflecting on our past has merit as well. Within the nursing profession, the recognition of the specialty practice of infusion nursing has been established only recently. The vision and passion of one nursing pioneer directed the efforts that have led INS to its growth today. That leader was Ada Plumer, a person many of us equate with infusion therapy. It's with deep sadness that we mourn her death in March at age 91; however, we can celebrate the rich legacy she left behind.

Figure. Mary Alexand... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure.

Before the 1940s, a nurse's role was to assist physicians with venipuncture and administer fluids. In 1940, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston developed a new nursing position, which included the following responsibilities:


* Administering IV solutions and transfusions


* Cleaning and sharpening needles


* Cleaning infusion sets


* Maintaining patent needles and unobstructed infusion flow



The emphasis was on technical performance and the ability to perform a successful venipuncture; however, this new nursing role established autonomy from the physician and conferred the specialty title of "Intravenous Therapist." At MGH, Ada Plumer became the first IV nurse and developed the first IV team. In 1970, she wrote the first edition of Principles and Practice of Intravenous Therapy, a publication that has been considered a "bible" of infusion nursing.1 Currently, under the auspices of Sharon Weinstein, an INS past president, it's in its 8th edition and is still widely used as a reference.


In 1973, infusion nursing was evolving as a specialty practice thanks to Ada's leadership and guidance. Ada Plumer, along with Marguerite Knight from the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, organized a group of 17 nurses and 1 technician into a professional association that became known as the National Intravenous Therapy Association (NITA), now the Infusion Nurses Society. NITA was established to recognize the implications of intravenous therapy for the patient, standardize the specialty practice of intravenous therapy, and educate the nursing professional. The specialty practice was formally recognized in 1980 when the US House of Representatives declared January 25 "IV Nurse Day."


By the time I joined the MGH IV team in 1979, Ada had retired. She left a rich legacy, however. IV therapy was her passion, and for many years after her retirement she continued to teach IV education at MGH. Her vision and clinical expertise were the basis of what we currently know as the specialty practice of infusion nursing. As co-founder of NITA, she recognized the significant role nurses played in providing quality care to patients receiving IV therapy and the importance of educating nurses about it. Those basic principles continue to guide INS today. Thirty-four years later, we continue to be grateful for her wisdom and value her foresight as we strive to realize the vision that Ada had years ago.


As a teacher, mentor, leader, and champion for infusion therapy practice, Ada guided us on our journey to strive for excellence in patient care. The rapidly changing healthcare environment demands that we broaden our knowledge base and validate continued competence. As INS members, we continue to benefit from Ada's foresight as we enhance our professional practice and grow the organization.


Mary Alexander




1. Plumer AL. Principles and Practice of Intravenous Therapy. 1st ed. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott; 1970. [Context Link]