Today I performed my first phlebotomy! Like most AMSA workshops here at AUC, the phlebotomy workshop was taught by current students who used to be registered nurses, CMTs, and EMTs before coming to med school.
I’ve given vaccines before, many many times, to children at the pediatric clinic this past summer, so giving shots was no big deal for me, but phlebotomy just seems different. With vaccinations, it is not as important where you give the shots, as long as it is subcu for live vaccines and intramuscular for dead ones. The needles for vaccines are also of a certain length, so you don’t have to worry about deciding how far to stick the needle in.
But for phlebotomy, you got to find the vein, and if you can’t see it (which is quite common), you gotta feel for it. Even with the tourniquet on, sometimes it is difficult to even feel the vein on some people (like those who have a lot of subcutaneous fat). Once you stick the needle in, you got to figure out how far to stick the needle in so that it’s deep enough to get the blood and not too deep to completely puncture through the vein (which is a little painful, btw), or accidentally puncture an artery. You stop going deeper when you see blood shoot out into tube. If still no blood, you probably missed the vein altogether, and your patient’s going to be mad at the bruise that will show up the next morning. It’s the limited visual and tactile clues in some people that makes phlebotomy tricky.
Today I was a little nervous giving my first phlebotomy on someone. It’s easy to puncture too deep, which both my partner and I did a little even though we were both careful and slow, but nevertheless, we both successfully drew each other’s blood on the first try.
For all you upcoming first-semester students, I highly recommend joining AMSA. The membership fee is $40 and it covers for all five semesters of your stay at AUC. The workshops are well worth it, only $5 for member, and $15 for non-members. Besides a free t-shirt, there’s also a few free workshops, like the Radiology workshop where they teach you how to read x-rays, and Diabetes Screening workshop where you learn how to interview patients, prick a finger, and screen for diabetes. There was also an Intubation workshop earlier in the semester which I’m mad at myself for missing… perhaps next time. AMSA will be there during the activities fair in the beginning of the semester.