The field of intravenous (i.v.) therapy has been subject to major change, with increasing numbers of nurses taking on the high profile, technical aspects of care. The transfer of previously medicalized tasks such as cannulation has been welcomed by nurses who are keen to develop practical skills in order to embrace the concept of holistic patient care. This literature review aims to clarify the role of the nurse in i.v. therapy, exploring cannulation as a specific issue. Legal and professional aspects are discussed in terms of extended/expanded practice and practical aspects in terms of i.v. access and maintenance. Discussion focuses on a team approach to the management of i.v. therapy. Finally, the nursing process is applied to an i.v. therapy scenario. Exploration of the nursing issues enables practitioners to justify the expansion of individual practice in order to deliver holistic care and improve standards of service. The review concludes that nurses cannot afford to lose sight of the caring component of their role as a result of immersion in the culture of technical skill acquisition.