Phlebotomy is the process of drawing and collecting blood from a human vein for medical purposes. The actual process is called venipuncture. Venipuncture is performed by specialized healthcare workers called phlebotomy technicians. Phlebotomy technicians have been trained in this specialized procedure along with being educated in human anatomy and physiology, blood storage and collection procedures and safety protocol and procedures.
Before starting to draw blood the phlebotomist must have all of the necessary equipment and tools for the venipuncture lined up. You need to be completely prepared because after you start drawing the blood you will not be able to leave the patient except for a few minutes, depending, of course, on how much blood is being drawn.
A phlebotomist requires needles, syringes and collecting tubes. The collecting tubes are specialized vacuum tubes or bags that are designed to collect a certain amount of blood. If you are drawing blood for medical test, it is usually a small tube. If you are collecting for blood donation it is a larger bag.
Some of the collection tubes for medical testing may contain additives to assist with the testing. The tubes are generally identifiable by the color of the rubber stopper on top. The phlebotomist will also need tourniquets to identify the vein, antiseptic and gauze or cotton balls and tape to place over the vein after the blood draw. A specialized puncture-proof container with “bio-hazardous” markings on it is also required for the safe disposal of used needles.
Safety measures are of the utmost importance for phlebotomists. The phlebotomist must begin by washing their hands with a specialized antibacterial soap before every procedure. The phlebotomist must also wear protective vinyl or latex gloves for every venipuncture and these gloves must be replaced with every procedure. A lab coat or gown must also be worn during the blood collection.
After the venipuncture is completed all of the equipment used must be disposed of properly in accordance with bio-hazardous waste disposal policies. Any potentially contaminated surfaces must be wiped down with a antibacterial bleach solution. Every surface must be completely cleaned every day with a bleach solution.
The phlebotomist first need to identify the patient and be sure that all of the accompanying information is correct. At this time, he or she should also explain the procedure and try to minimize any anxiety or discomfort that the patient might be feeling.
The patient will need to be in a proper position for venipuncture, usually with the arm extended with a closed fist. The phlebotomist will then select the appropriate vein for the blood collection. The tourniquet is then placed three to four inches above the vein, which makes the vein bulge out with blood, making it easier for the venipuncture. The vein site is then cleaned with an alcohol pad and allowed to dry before the puncture of the needle.
The actual procedure of the venipuncture begins with the appropriate needle connected to the collection tube or bag. The phlebotomist will then insert the needle into the vein and the vacuum tube is then attached to the needle and the blood begins to flow. The tourniquet is then removed and the patient can relax their hand.
When the blood collection is complete, the needle is removed and a gauze pad is applied with slight pressure to the puncture site. This helps to halt the bleeding more quickly. All needles and other tools should then be disposed of and all tubes or bags of blood should be immediately marked with the patient labels, the date and the time.