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Shop Talk: Shanise Keith

A PT subscriber talks about minimizing fear, pain and complications

by Shanise Keith • February 08, 2019


My subscribers have a collective expertise in phlebotomy that exists nowhere else on the planet. This column is your opportunity to share what you know and how you feel about your skill, the profession, or whatever you want to share about the nature of your work. Tips, rants, joyful experiences are all welcome. If you want to submit an article for consideration, send your 400-700-word article to us at [email protected]. We reserve the right to edit the document for grammar, punctuation, and clarity, but those that don't require much "fixing" will be given top consideration. Go for it!

Shanise Keith
Shanise Keith

One of the most difficult things for a new phlebotomist to learn is how to handle the pain, fear, and complications with patients that are bound to arise. A phlebotomist's job sometimes inflicts unavoidable pain for a medical purpose. It's the nature of the procedure. I have many students who are petrified of causing discomfort, pain from drawing blood, and the potential to even injure the patient is terrifying to the new phlebotomist. Such fear makes it difficult for them to be effective, and can cause a venipuncture to be more painful than it should be just because of their paranoia. While worrying about our patients' wellbeing is very important, letting fear keep us from doing what is necessary is an obstacle to success, a detriment to the procedure, and a disservice to the patient.

So how can we be sure we're not going to hurt our patient? Unfortunately, we can't. At least some pain is going to be unavoidable during most of our draws. However, there are ways to minimize it:

  • Avoid high risk veins such as the basilic vein, wrist veins, or veins in the fingers and thumb;
  • Pull firmly to tighten the skin so the needle enters the skin easier;
  • Avoid digging or redirecting improperly;
  • Stop the draw if the patient begins to form a hematoma;
  • Tell your patient you need to know if the draw starts to hurt, or if they wish for you to stop;
  • Insert the needle smoothly and fairly quick. The faster the needle gets through the skin, the less your patient will be in pain. Be careful not to go too fast, however.

By using these tactics, you can eliminate most of the pain associated with a venipuncture. Perform your venipunctures carefully, and confidently, and listen to your patient. Most of the time as soon as the needle has passed through the skin the pain goes away, or is at least is minimized. As you become more comfortable with your sticks you may even hear those magic words that are music to every phlebotomist's ears: “I didn’t even feel that!”.

Shanise Keith has been an instructor of phlebotomy at Mountainland Technical College for eight years and has taught hundreds of students. She has worked in various healthcare professions spanning more than ten years including an emergency department EMT-A and a forensic phlebotomist. She has a love of service. Her favorite thing about her teaching job is seeing the progression of her students to proficiency, and watching them succeed as phlebotomists all over the nation.


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