Medical Errors in Manuscripts: An IV is not a Needle

This week I’m going to cover three of the most common medical errors I see in manuscripts.

Note to authors everywhere: An IV is not a needle.

Product Photo

This picture is the IV as it comes out of the package. This is an over-the-needle catheter meaning the needle is encased inside the catheter. Once the needle is inside the vein, the white button (seen at the base of the blue part) is pushed and the needle is sheathed inside the bottom plastic holder. You can see the spring fills that compartment in comparison to when the needle is visible. This is a safety feature to prevent needle stick injury. Once the needle is gone, a small plastic catheter is left inside the vein. Not a needle. The needle is gone.

When you start an IV you get a “flashback”— meaning blood is visible in the catheter. Typically, once you get flashback, you advance the catheter and needle a little more (like one millimeter) into the vein. Then you’ll slide the catheter off the needle and advance it into the vein, popping the button to sheath the needle. Then you connect tubing or a cap to the yellow portion and you now have IV (intravenous) access.

Needle recapping is a no-no in the medical setting. Every healthcare provider is drilled to never recap needles. Many devices have safety features like this one so you don’t have to recap to cover the needle.

Did you know the hubs of IV catheters are color coded for size even across different brands? For instance, a yellow hub is a 24 Gauge catheter. And catheter sizes are inverse so the smaller the number, the larger the IV catheter is. A 24 Gauge would be the size for an infant versus an 18 Gauge would be the size for an adult patient.

Medical question for you: Why are there white stripes on the plastic catheter (the part that stays inside the patient)?

8 thoughts on “Medical Errors in Manuscripts: An IV is not a Needle

  1. Jordyn, Great info, and I know that you–like me–hate medical errors in writing. One comment, though. Most folks won’t know the difference, and sometimes it suffices to say, “Got an IV started.” But I agree–if you’re going to go into detail, do it right. Thanks for sharing.


    • Hi Richard,

      Yes, I do agree with you and this is what I teach as well with one caveat— that it depends on your POV character and how you’ve written them so far. The uber intellectual doctor who knows every detail then you might need to say something medical with a lot of detail in it.

      Versus the parent watching the procedure then absolutely— vague and simple is often the way to go.

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I always love it when you add your angle as a physician.


  2. I love these posts you do like this, Jordyn! I’ve always been fascinated with medicine. I wanted to join the Army out of high school to be a nurse. They would have paid and I would have entered as a 2nd Lt. My mama wouldn’t let me. I think she was right. It’s fascinating, but the work of it would have overwhelmed me. I’m not stomach strong enough. I have no idea what those little white stripes mean, but I hope you’ll tell me!


    • Hi Susan!

      So glad and honored to see you comment here. I didn’t know that about you! Yes, you definitely need a strong stomach for a lot of areas in nursing. Something tells me you would have been a great one though.

      You’ll have to tune in Wednesday to find out what those white stripes mean ;).

      Liked by 1 person

      • I appreciate your trust in me, Jordyn. But my mama was right. I don’t have the stomach for it. Not at all. Minor scrapes and cuts, yes, but nothing serious. But just think: I could have mustered out after 20 years over 20 years ago now! My husband’s accident prone and the last cut on his palm in July just turned my stomach! You could see bone. Not me. No, no, no. I could, however, read to patients. 🙂


    • Brandy,

      That is a good guess, but not quite right. However, the black lines with numbers on g-tubes (surgically implanted), NG’s and cor paks (which are tubes that go through your nose for various reasons) do help to know how far they are inserted. We’ll usually note this number on the chart to help determine if they’re in the right place.

      The white lines however– tune in Wednesday to find out.


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