Confessions of a Phlebotomist: Same four walls, different scenery

phlebotomistFirst of all, I know that what I do makes most people pretty darn squeamish. Patients tolerate blood tests at best and go faint at worst. But I must tell you that I truly love what I do.

The same four walls actually look different from day to day because of the wide variety of people who walk through my door. Before I became a phlebotomist, I used to watch television shows like ER and wonder if patients were really like that. I'm here to tell you that yes, they are-in every way.

-- Compare your salary to a phlebotomists.

When I started out I was fairly young, 23, and looked even younger than my age.

One day, after a crazy-busy morning, a cranky elderly woman came in and began questioning my abilities as soon as she sat down. "Well young lady, you sure don't look old enough to be drawing my blood. Are you sure you're qualified to do this?" I smiled and prepped her arm. As soon as I was ready to poke her with the needle, I smiled again and couldn't resist saying, "I'm actually a high school student. I'm on my externship. This is my first time on an actual real person; we only practiced on oranges in training." The woman was speechless! I knew I was good at what I did, and I did an excellent job on her. She was flabbergasted when I finished like a pro!

I've done about 1,000 blood draws, but however many more I might do I will never forget one man who was Hepatitis B positive. While I was putting on my gloves, he asked me to double bag them (put on two pairs) for my protection. I didn't oblige. I have to imagine that every one of my patients has AIDS or Hepatitis and follow precautions. While I was in the middle of drawing his blood he explained that he contracted the virus because back in his "younger days" he liked to do "kinky things in kinky places on women." TMI! I must have turned three shades of red!

It always amazes me when men or women in the armed services drop like flies at the sight of a needle. They can be strong while dodging bullets aimed to kill them, but, as soon as the tourniquet goes on and the needle goes in their arm, they pass out! One young navy man, a hulking guy who was well over six feet tall and easily weighed 240 pounds, was all tough until half way through the blood draw, when his face turned a sickly shade of green. He said, "I feel funny..." and fainted. He came back to about five seconds later and kept apologizing for it.

What could I do? I told him, "Don't worry about it; it happens all the time. We are glad to have you serve our country!"

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Ritesh Kumar

I am a phlebotomist and fully understand your feelings, But let me assure you we are not all the same in our point of view towards the task at hand or to a patients feelings. Anyone who has had to do a venipuncture on an infant or young child will agree its the hardest thing to accomplish and something you can only accept by thinking to yourself " I am doing this to benefit the child so it will be healthy" Phlebotomists really do have more sensitivity than you think.
Emy from

February 25 2014 at 11:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a phlebotomist of over 13 years---i take offense to being told I do not know how to do my job. As a parent I have told off more nurses and PBTs oer my son than I can count--I have called them out on thier improper techniques--starting out with telling my that I had to to leave the room with my 6 month old son was being stuck--I told that person where she could stick that needle and requested another tech to do the stick---I have had to basically tell a PBT how to do a draw on me--I have small veins and a butterfly needle typically has to be used in order to obtain a sample from me. I went to my local ER and was stuck 6 times because the interns who thought they knew everything wouldnt listen to me---I have done this job for 13 plus years--I am now in school finishing up my nursing degree--in training I was the one that the other students would come get when they had a "hard stick". so don't go telling me that I don't know how to do my job that I sat through 8 weeks of class and 250 on site training hours to do--when you have went through the classwork and training hours then we can talk otherwise shut up and deal with the pain of my needle!!! VAMPIRES RULE!!!!!

February 06 2011 at 9:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Are you sadistic? Do you like to stab people?

July 22 2010 at 8:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

CMS, you take your job and your importance way too seriously. These patients are sick and need compassion. Don't make it about you. It's your job.

April 23 2010 at 2:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
joan lewis

As a nurse anesthetist and a prev phlebotomist, why doe'snt your wife and sons ask if they can lie down if they faint so often? Also the chairs have sides and a table/tray the comes down in front of them so how does she end up on the floor? For everyone NEVER let an MD. draw blood from you and if all this does not please you you can always ask for the dept. of anesthesia to come down, l have been asked to help many times, but please stop being so negative you are about to make me faint.

April 20 2010 at 2:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

this sure was interesting to read and the even more interesting to read the comments....
having gone thru a lot of blood draws for lab tests over the years, my left elbow area is now full of scar tissue (so i was told) from having so many needles inserted. so for the past couple of years, i've told the lab tech to use the right elbow area for the 'big' draw...and have been using the top of my hands for hte 'normal' blood test every couple of months.
i am a type 2 diabetic, am a hepatitis b carrier, have hemachromatosis (too much iron in the blood), and no doubt something else lurking in there.
when i first started having the phlebotomies, the tech at the hospital was less than friendly. it was almost like i was interupting her day of work. after having this done each week for several months, i quickly learned who to have perform the draw, and was able to strike up a great nurse/patient relationship with 2 people. lucky me, the 1st tech retired. but imagine my surprise when the woman showed up at MY place of employment and wanted service. i provided it as nicely as i could, but she was upset that it wasn't what she felt it should be...after all, i was one of her patients.
just had my latest 'big draw' last week, and at a different hospital, and as glad as i am that this is reducing my iron levels, i still can't stand the size or the sight of that needle. so i always turn away until it's all over.
to you people above who do this all the time, thanks for your compassion and professionalism.

April 20 2010 at 12:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It doesn't bother me to watch the whole blood draw procedure. I find it fasinating(sp?) how the phleb. can find that little transport tube under my thick skin. Maybe I've been lucky, maybe I have good veins, maybe I just have a better attitude. I've always had "one shot" phlebotomists.

April 20 2010 at 9:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's possible that the vein(s) where you are asking the phlebotomist to stick are not good veins. A good phlebotomist will always look for veins first in the arm and use the hand as a last resort. Hand veins blow easily and do not always produce the best speciman. If you have frequent blood draws along with other major health problems veins can develop scar tissue and/or become hard and wirey and are not good candidates for extracting blood from. So using the same vein all the time is not a good idea.

April 18 2010 at 10:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Georgia...she is wearing gloves..she is just not going to put on 2 of them like the patient jokingly asked her to.

April 12 2010 at 4:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

blah...blah...blah. I don't need to hear a cooment back from a lab person. I need a reply from a patient like my wife and sons. Allyou lab people are going to do is defend each other. I assure you we have ''always'' used tact. We are not rude to the lab people. We are smart enough to know tht it does not make sense to be impolite with someone who is getting ready to stick a needle in you. And yes...joking is fine...but there is a fine line between joking and being disrespectful...and then later saying all you were doing was joking. That is easy to do after the fact...but it does not mean they were just means they said they were. Big diffeence. Smart mouthed lab people are nothing new. We have had some that were great, though. We don't have an issue about fainting. We don't blame the lab people for that...but you just don't know what you are talking about (even if that ''is'' your job) when you don't realize that it usually does no good to warn these lab people. All most of them know how to do is help the people up off the floor and they make little effort of stop people from going down to the floor. You can lead a horse to water, but you can make him drink. Lab people are like that. You honestly don't know what you are talking about. I have ''tried'' letting my wife go back to the lab area where they draw the blood ''all by herself''. Believe me, it has ben a bit embarassing for me to have to go with my adult wife and adult boys into the lab with them. Been doing it for 30 years with my wife. 22-24 years with my sons. I know...some are you are saying...''Now, that's a good man''...Damn right I am. They know I am the only one who is going to be there to catch them. The lab people don't have the love for my family I do. I ''know'' they are going to faint. They ''alwasy'' do. I don't know what you are talking about. The last time I sent my wife back by herself, I was in the waitng room. Later, I heard a ''commotion''...and I knew what it was. My wife had fainted. I went back there and she was still on the ground with everyone doing nothing but freaking out. ''I'' was the one who had to help her back up. I am literally teared up thinking about how afraid I remmber being to see if she would be OK, not knowing if she had hit her head or something. She was OK, and always has been. Not bad for a woman sho has fainted probably 50 times in her life. I ''will' take the credit...the lab peopel only occasionally have been sharp enough...but only rarely. You just are not lsitening to what I am writing. You think you know everything and are too busy defending your fellow lab people. Good for you...but try getting more heart. My sons and I kid my about how she has to leave a show if it is a bloody sci-fi or action movie...but at home...she watches those CSI shows with no problem. I know..she is weird..I tell her so all the time. I have many stories. Care to hear the one about when she almost died on the lifeflight helicoptor have out firstborn? probably just want to defend the author of the post again. You are probably just like her. Most of the lab people are.

April 12 2010 at 4:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to usmaels1's comment

We do the best job we can with what we have to work with. Do you have any suggestions on how to get blood from difficult patients? I realize you feel that we are inept but for one, your family members don't have good veins and two, drawing blood is a skill but it doesn't guarantee that getting it is going to be an easy tasks. Everyone in the hospitals and clinics rely on us to get the blood from our patients and they know that we are the elite team of professionals who can. So if your family members are going through such an ordeal when having their blood drawn I would recommend trying to find the most experienced phlebotomist that you can at the facility you have your blood drawn. We are not offended if you come in and request a certain phlebotomist to draw your blood. The other option for you is to see if the blood tests you are having can be done by a simple finger stick. Lab analyzers these days can run blood tests on a very small amount of blood and when I have a difficult draw I can always resort to doing a finger stick for such tests as a CBC or a Comp or BMP, etc. Just a thought. Best of luck in the future.

April 18 2010 at 10:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am a phlebotomist and fully understand your feelings, But let me assure you we are not all the same in our point of view towards the task at hand or to a patients feelings. Anyone who has had to do a venipuncture on an infant or young child will agree its the hardest thing to accomplish and something you can only accept by thinking to yourself " I am doing this to benefit the child so it will be healthy" Phlebotomists really do have more sensitivity than you think. However we also have to hide our emotions to stop upsetting parents and family members.
Think of doing a ward round at 3 am so the Dr has the results when he gets to his desk. Think how having to do a series of time draws on the same people and then one day the patient has expired!
I agree that there are some people who should never be allowed to enter the realms of medicine, and I have herd and reported so called Phlebotomists who have said " That'll teach the little tyke, I made a pin cushion out of him/her " I also do not agree with what I call fishing, as CMS stated you find the best vein anchor it and make a smooth and as painless draw as possible. If someone sticks you and searches for the vein with the needle being moved around within your arm, believe me it hurts and your damaging flesh. A phlebotomist is limited to two attempts if they fail then someone else should try to make the draw. But I disagree with CMS about his knowledge of he knows which vein is best, that attitude is out of order YOU SHOULD ALWAYS LISTEN TO THE PATIENT, If you need to make a draw from an unusual vein then get the Dr to authorize it.

And I also think there are far too many draws being done for no other reason than to increase revenue. So you patients out there before you leave your Dr ask why exactly does he need a blood draw and how will it help you.
Remember also if you don't want to have your blood drawn, You have a legal right to refuse.....

April 19 2010 at 7:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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