Are you having trouble drawing blood on patients? Need some tips on how to draw blood and be successful?
I remember as a nursing student that I struggled with drawing blood. I always had trouble finding a vein and if I did find a vein I ended up missing it. However, after working as a registered nurse and receiving ample amount of practice, I have finally figured out what it takes to be successful at drawing blood.
In this article, I want to share with you:
- Why healthcare professionals draw blood
- Best places to draw blood
- Issues with drawing blood (rolling veins, using a tourniquet properly)
- Troubleshooting blood draw issues
Why do we draw blood?
A patient’s blood work is vitally important. It tells the healthcare team the internal status of a patient’s health. Doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants order lab work on patients to assess the patient’s electrolyte status, blood levels, check for certain diseases, test drug levels, and much more.
As the person drawing blood, it is important you know how to draw blood correctly. This includes sticking the vein correctly and using the proper tubes.
For example, a CBC (complete blood count) will go into a lavender tube while a PT/INR will be collected into a blue tube.
Note: some facilities require different tubes so always make sure you are collecting the right tubes for blood draws (most labs will have print outs which will tell you the correct color of tube). If you ever have a question always call the lab.
Best places to draw blood
- Antecubital veins! These are located in the bend of the arm at the elbow. Most nurses and phlebotomists love using the medial cubital or cephalic veins.
- Hand veins! Patients typically do not like this area because it is very sensitive. However, if you cannot find an AC vein the hand is another great place to look.
- Forearm and wrist veins! These veins can be tricky because they tend to run deep but some patients who are cardiovascular fit have great forearm and wrist veins.
Video on Tips for Drawing Blood
Tips for Drawing Blood
- Always feel the vein rather than see it! If you don’t know what a vein “feels” like, practice by feeling on yourself with you index finger. They are springy and bouncy.
- If the veins are deep and not visibly popping out, use a tourniquet and have the patient lower their arm. This will increase the pressure on the vein and cause it to become visible.
- Watch out for rolling veins! Watch this video to learn how to spot a rolling vein. If the vein is a “roller” have the patient extend out the arm to stabilize the vein or if you are using a hand vein, have the patient make a “light” fist.
- Don’t use a tourniquet if the vein is already visible or “popping out” because the added pressure of the tourniquet may blow the vein (causing the vein to collapse).
- Learn how to use equipment and be familiar with what items you need to draw blood. Example: alcohol prep, tubes, 22-18 gauge (you pick), gauzes, tape, vacutainer, tourniquet.
Note: if the doctor orders a lot of labs which will require multiple tubes, I suggest using the biggest sized needle (20 gauge), and also make sure the vein is large enough to within stand the stress of a long blood draw. These tricks will help decrease the needle from clotting off or the vein from blowing.
Troubleshooting drawing blood issues
- No blood coming out once you pop on the tubes: The needle may be against a valve….so gently and slowly move the needle back and see if blood starts coming out. Also, may sure the tourniquet didn’t come off. If you didn’t use a tourniquet, blood will come out slowly because it doesn’t have a lot of pressure on it.
- Suddenly quits drawing blood: The needle may have clotted off, the vein blew, or needle went through the vein. Less likely, but it is possible the tube was bad (had this happen a couple of times).
- Vein blew or collapsed during the draw: The vein was too small or there was too much pressure on the vein if you used a tourniquet.
You may also like: Most Common Reasons People Miss Veins