Phlebotomy Procedures and Best Practices

The process of drawing blood from the body for medical purposes is known as phlebotomy. Although the procedure has been done for centuries and is regarded as one of the simpler and most commonly performed procedures in medicine, there are still risks involved that can be hazardous to both the patient and health personnel so having a phlebotomy certification is preferred.

A phlebotomy draw performed improperly can result in errors in the laboratory results, injury in the patient and even worse, the death of the patient. Laboratory results can be affected by a mere touch of the health worker’s finger at the vein where the blood is to be taken. Red blood cells can be broken if the test tubes that contain them are handled vigorously while in transit to the lab. The patients could suffer from excessive bruising at the site of the injection, nerve damage, fainting spells and possible haematomas.

Acknowledging the importance of a well-done phlebotomy, a WHO Injection Safety program was initiated in April 2008 at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva. The programme is part of the Department of Essential Health Technologies (EHT) and was attended by experts in the field as an effort to analyse the risks of phlebotomy and to suggest the best practices for it.

It all boils down to having well-trained medical personnel that follow the correct steps for a successful phlebotomy procedure to ensure that the phlebotomy carried out is fit for producing accurate results in the lab as well as ensure the patients’ well-being.

Program Case Study Results

It was found that during the programme that:

  • Medical staff were frequently capping used needles with both hands – this exposes the workers to risk of accidentally penetrating their skin with the needle. This practise should be eliminated and instead, used needles are encouraged to be disposed of in a puncture-resistant bin. Safety devices such as retractable needles, retractable lancets, syringes with needle covers and plastic laboratory tubes should also be used.
  • Medical workers should be trained to conduct capillary blood sampling, arterial blood sampling and paediatric blood collection – they should also be well-versed in the use of technology to assist their work as well as know the proper methods for handling blood samples.
  • Hospitals should be responsible – Providing gloves in various sizes, sufficient syringes, single-use disposable needles and lancing devices in order for each patient to have sterile equipment.
  • Medical workers mus be aware of sterilization procedures – they should always wear non-sterile, well-fitting gloves, constantly disinfect the counters and areas that the patients come in contact with as well as take precaution by getting immunized against Hepatitis B.

If these measures are successfully implemented, phlebotomy will be a much safer procedure and a less dreaded experience for patients.

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