If you're so squeamish you faint at the sight of blood, you'd never make it as a phlebotomist. These modern-day vampires spend their days drawing blood in hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices, and packaging blood samples for medical tests. Phlebotomists have to follow strict safety precautions to protect themselves and their patients from contamination and infection.
A phlebotomist follows tried-and-true safety protocols to protect her patients. She takes the patient's medical history to find out if there's one side she shouldn't draw blood from or if the patient is taking medication that prevents blood from clotting. Her equipment is clean and sterile, and she washes her hands and wears gloves during the blood draw. After she draws the blood, she follows procedures to make sure the patient wound doesn't bleed under the skin, and she dresses the patient's wound.
Diseases such as hepatitis and HIV can be transmitted by a needlestick, so a phlebotomist also takes safety precautions to protect herself. Thanks to the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2001, modern safety needles have built-in features that help prevent accidental needle pricks as long as phlebotomists activate the safety devices, notes the College of American Pathologists. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that phlebotomists take an active role in testing safety equipment and choosing the products they think are easiest to operate.
One of the phlebotomist's responsibilities is to make sure the samples she takes are properly labeled. If the wrong name goes on a vial of blood, a patient can be diagnosed with a disease he doesn't have, and a patient who does have a disease may never get treatment for it. Labeling her specimen containers properly makes sure the patient's carefully drawn blood doesn't go to waste.
The phlebotomist's job isn't finished after the patient's blood is drawn. The last precaution she has to take is to protect herself and the general public from harm by safely disposing of all the medical waste left over from the phlebotomy procedure. Gauze, bandages, gloves, tourniquets and syringes are all biohazards and must be properly disposed of in a puncture-resistant container. Taking the trash out when the procedure is finished helps protect others from getting a blood-borne disease from a needle stick.
Marilyn Lindblad practices law on the west coast of the United States. She has been a freelance writer since 2007. Her work has appeared on various websites. Lindblad received her Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark Law School.