Take your time and good luck!
Take your time and good luck!
What is Phlebotomy?
Phlebotomy is the process of drawing blood intravenously from a patient. Phlebotomy is usually performed by inserting a hollow needle into a patient’s vein to collect blood samples for laboratory analysis. In most cases, health professionals draw blood from a vein inside the patient’s forearm or the back of the hand. Phlebotomy can be performed by nurses, medical laboratory scientists, physicians, phlebotomists, dialysis technicians, and other personnel.
What is the purpose of phlebotomy?
Phlebotomy is a standard procedure that is usually done for one of the following reasons:
- Acquire blood samples for diagnostic purposes.
- To control the levels of various blood components.
- To draw blood to combat high levels of iron or red blood cells.
- To collect blood for later uses, such as blood transfusions.
How long does it take to perform phlebotomy?
According to a study by the National Institutes of Medicine, it takes about 10 seconds or less to collect blood from a tube. The average time to acquire blood for three tubes was between 26 and 44 seconds.
When you consider some of the preliminary steps to phlebotomy (gathering supplies, verifying information, preparing the patient, etc.), the entire process can take anywhere from five to ten minutes.
Who can perform phlebotomy?
Phlebotomy is typically performed by a variety of different healthcare professionals, including medical laboratory scientists, physicians, phlebotomists, dialysis technicians, and other nursing staff.
Some EMTs and paramedics can also perform venipuncture, and in veterinary medicine, the procedure is usually performed by veterinarians or vet techs.
Depending on location (i.e., employment status), employer, and level of experience, physician assistants may also draw blood with the proper training. It is important to remember that a physician assistant may only draw blood under the order of a physician and as permitted by state law.
Training Requirements for Phlebotomy
Phlebotomy requirements often vary and will depend on your location and profession. For example, in all but four states, phlebotomists are not required to obtain a phlebotomy certificate or license to draw blood. Don’t worry though; Most employers will only hire phlebotomists with valid certifications or diplomas. Some people have years of phlebotomy experience but have never passed a phlebotomy program.
When it comes to phlebotomy training, many programs in your chosen profession will likely include some phlebotomy component. For example, at Unitek College, students in our Medical Assistant Program must demonstrate the application of phlebotomy, venipuncture, and capillary blood draw in adults and children.
Equipment needed for phlebotomy
Suggested phlebotomy supplies typically include the following items:
- Evacuated collection tubes
- Personal protection equipment
- Needles and syringes
- Hand sanitizer
- Alcohol swabs
- Laboratory Sample Labels
- Blood transfer device
- Tape or adhesive bandages
- Laboratory forms
- Biohazard Leak Proof Carry Bags
- Puncture-resistant sharps container
Pro Tips to Master the Art of Phlebotomy
Some of the most basic phlebotomy tips involve planning ahead, using a proper location, and ensuring quality control is in place. Here are some other pro tips that may help you in the future.
Know your veins:
- A common choice for adult patients is the median cubital vein in the antecubital fossa (think cleft elbow). This vein is a good choice for beginners as it is close to the surface and tends not to roll when drilling. Some other commonly used veins are the basilic vein and the cephalic vein.
Take a deep breath :
- By asking the patient to take a deep breath just before the needlestick, you can help them stay calm and distracted. A person will often feel more in control of the situation if you give them something to do. This can also work while the needle is withdrawn.
- Stretching the skin “anchoring” the vein doesn’t just help you glue the vein down on the first try. It also helps make the prick less painful. Remember, your thumb goes under the venipuncture site, and leave yourself enough room so you don’t accidentally stick your own fingers.
Nothing But Feelings:
- Part of vein selection comes down to feeling. Not a gut feeling, but a literal Feeling the vein, not slapping, despite what you see in the movies, will always be the most reliable approach. Feel for that “spongy firmness” and feel above and below your target area to get a better idea of direction.
The Invisible Vein:
- Still can’t find a place to stay? Jabr of Florence, Oregon suggests that you “apply a warm pad to the target vein for a few minutes.” Doing this will help dilate the vein and make it more visible. Another trick is to bend your arm up if the veins are hidden. This sometimes makes them easier to spot.
Under thirty :
- You’ve probably heard this in your training, but it never hurts to hear it again. The World Health Organization guidelines suggest keeping the angle of insertion at 30 degrees or less (15 is ideal) to avoid passing through the vein.
- There’s nothing worse than getting a big stick, pulling out a big sample, and then forgetting to tag it right away. In fact, there is something worse…and that is mixing samples because they weren’t labeled at the bedside. For your sake and the patient’s, label all samples immediately, even if things are going a mile a minute.
Know when to quit:
- Just can’t get that blood sample? Are the veins just not cooperating? Here’s something else to consider: getting help. Don’t think of it as failure or defeat, think of it as making the best decision for your patient. Getting a fresh set of eyes on the situation may be all it takes to finally get a good sample, and knowing when to seek help is the mark of a professional.
Why Medical Assistants Should Learn Phlebotomy
Without the proper blood samples to accurately diagnose our health, we could all experience a number of dangers, including treatment errors or lack of proper medical care for undiagnosed illnesses or conditions.
Although many hospitals employ phlebotomy equipment, it can be very beneficial for some medical assistants to learn these skills. This is because phlebotomy teams typically make rounds at specific times in most hospital settings. For example, if a doctor orders an immediate lab test, the responsibility could fall to the nurses or medical assistants on duty.
While phlebotomy is not a job requirement at every medical office, it is a valuable skill that leads to increased opportunities. It would be advantageous for MAs or aspiring physician assistants to pursue phlebotomy certification. Once certified, a master’s degree will likely become more essential to her employer and enrich her career.