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Venepuncture and cannulation: Indications and vein selection

CPD Hours



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Clinical practice and procedures


Venepuncture is the process of puncturing a vein with a needle. Intravenous cannulation is the process of inserting a plastic tube into a peripheral vein in order to access the circulatory system. Both venepuncture and intravenous cannulation are extremely common in almost all healthcare settings.

Up to 80% of patients receive a peripheral venous access device during an in-hospital stay. Although historically a medical role, venepuncture and intravenous cannulation are now being carried out by a variety of healthcare professionals including nurses and midwives.

This module is one of a series of 5 on venepuncture and cannulation. The 5 modules are:

  1. Indications and vein selection
  2. Equipment selection
  3. Special considerations for paediatrics and neonates
  4. Venepuncture - A step-by-step procedural guide
  5. Cannulation - A step-by-step procedural guide


Prior to undertaking venepuncture and cannulation, nurses and midwives should check local policies and access the appropriate practical training and competency assessments. Only those deemed competent should perform venepuncture or cannulation.

Learning Objective

At the end of this module participants will be able to:

  • Identify indications for venepuncture and intravenous cannulation in clinical practice.
  • Describe the anatomy and physiology of the peripheral vascular system.
  • Understand how to select a vein for venepuncture or intravenous cannulation.
  • Identify problems that may occur while obtaining venous access and how to overcome them.
  • Describe special considerations for children.

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