People who have undergone phlebotomy training courses and get hired in a clinical setting are responsible for collecting blood so it can later be analyzed. There are different procedures for collecting blood in different situations. The most commonly performed blood collection is called a venipuncture. As one might expect, special tools are required for this process. A phlebotomist is a skilled healthcare worker that has been specially trained to use this equipment and perform blood collection procedures safely.
Safety is a very important component of phlebotomy. The patient and phlebotomist are both at risk of communicable diseases and infections that can be transmitted through bodily fluids. Phlebotomists follow safety protocols set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI).
To protect both the patient and technician, the phlebotomist will wear disposable latex or vinyl gloves, a lab coat or gown, a face mask and head covering. The phlebotomist will wash their hands and dispose of used gloves between every procedure. In some labs, disposable gowns are also available. All surfaces in the collection area are cleaned daily with bleach. Should a surface become contaminated during a blood collection procedure, it will be wiped down with a freshly prepared solution which contains 10% bleach. Also, the tools the phlebotomist use during the blood collection procedure are safely disposed of. Used needles go in a special puncture-proof container that is clearly labeled ‘biohazardous’.
Consideration of the patient is the next component of phlebotomy. Phlebotomists confirm patient information and take vital statistics before beginning blood collection. Many people may feel anxious or uncomfortable having blood drawn. The phlebotomist must reassure the patient that the minimum amount of blood required for analysis will be drawn. In addition to emotional comfort, lab furniture has been specially designed with phlebotomy in mind. Special chairs with adjustable and padded armrests are commonly used by phlebotomists. When these are not available, adjustable exam tables often are.
The main duty of a phlebotomist is to collect blood through the venipuncture procedure. Phlebotomists require a variety of tools to complete this task. Most commonly used in venipuncture are needles and needle components, butterfly needles, syringes, tourniquets, sterilization materials, bandaging materials and blood collection tubes. Just as there are many types of specimen analysis, there are many types of blood collection tubes. Classified by their colored tops, different types of tubes contain different additives which prepare the blood for a specific test type. If more than one blood sample is necessary, phlebotomists use the colored collection tubes in a specific order of draw.
Certain procedures, such as capillary blood collection which is most commonly performed in infants, require different equipment. Capillary blood collection requires a puncturing device, called a lancet, and capillary tubes to collect the blood. In infants, a warming device is often necessary to increase the blood flow to the collection site. Specially sized lancets and tubes are also available for infants. Occasionally phlebotomists are involved with the collection of other bodily fluids, such as urine. In this situation, a phlebotomist, or mobile phlebotomist would be equipped with collection cups and printed instructions to give to the patient.