Moving beyond the “perpetual novice”: Understanding the experiences of novice hemodialysis nurses and cannulation of the arteriovenous fistula

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Cannulation of the arteriovenous fistula (AVF) is an essential skill for hemodialysis (HD) nurses. With declining rates of AVFs, opportunities to develop expert cannulation skills have become limited. This study explored the concept of perpetual novice and AVF cannulation from the perspective of the novice cannulator. Nine hemodialysis nurses were interviewed using ethnographic methodology. The study identified the interplay between personal and environmental/contextual factors that hindered skill acquisition. Personal attributes identified by participants included HD nurses’ approach to learning and previous experience, emotional reaction to stress, and interpersonal relationships with colleagues. Environmental/contextual factors identified as impediments to cannulation skill development included limited learning opportunities, attitudes and demands from patients, unit flow and time pressures, and limitations imposed by the current model of nursing care. This study will be helpful in directing future educational, operational, and supportive interventions for novice HD nurses around cannulation skill development.

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