Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Learning Phlebotomy - MSU CHM M2 Spring Semester


Yesterday, I drew blood from a human for the first time. No, that's not me in the above picture, but that is my arm that you can't see, from which my friend is drawing blood. That's right - after practicing on manikin arms that have fake blood in them, we got to practice on each other.

The preceptors for the experience were great, explaining everything (which I'm sure was as easy as counting 1-2-3 for them, since this is probably the most basic thing they do in their careers) in as much detail as we could possibly want. Since I have pretty good veins (and am accustomed to getting needle sticks due to donating plasma), I ended up being a pretty good practice subject for my classmates.

What surprised me was what ended up being difficult about learning to draw blood. I always thought that getting the needle into the vein would be the hardest part, but it wasn't - at least not for me. It was much more difficult for me to find the vein in the first place, at least on people with no obvious veins. On top of that, holding the needle without moving it once it's inside the vein can also be a bit tricky. Connecting and disconnecting the vacuum tube without jiggling the needle and causing discomfort pain isn't easy, since you have to do all that with your non-dominant hand. Since I'm right-handed, I have to insert and hold the needle with my right hand, doing all the other operations with my left hand. Doable, but not the easiest thing in the world. So make sure to be nice the next time you have to get blood drawn, especially if the person doing it is new to the task.

We practiced with 22 gauge needles. The size of the needle actually decreases with increasing gauge number. The preceptor introducing us to the equipment mentioned that, as a point of reference, the needles used in donating plasma are 16 gauge, while the needles used in insulin injections are 23 gauge. To help clarify this, below left is a shot from when I donated plasma last semester after going through the Heme/Neo domain and getting curious about where "fresh frozen plasma" comes from, and on the right is the needle from yesterday's Phlebotomy session. Click to embiggen:

Above Left: The preceptor compared plasma donation needles to drinking straws. I always thought it was more similar to a bike pump, myself...

Above Right: The needles we used yesterday were pretty thin, which was resulted in very little bruising today. The blurriness of this photo makes the needle seem a little thicker than it was.

Anyway, yesterday was one more step in the direction of actually feeling like a healthcare worker. I understand that as a doctor, I will most likely not be doing many blood draws. Granted, this depends on what specialty I go into and most of all where in the world I end up practicing, but still - I understand I'm not likely to use this skill a whole ton. Phlebotomist technicians exist for a reason. STILL, it was cool to learn another skill so that I COULD do this if I needed to. Some day, I'll know enough information and will have gained enough skills to actually take care of people.

Some day, I'll be a doctor.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I'd rather have five 23 gauge shots then one of those gigantor 16 gauge whammies!

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