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What Should We Do?

Greasing up the heel before a puncture

by Dennis Ernst • October 09, 2020


Dear Center for Phlebotomy Education,

We have a pretty good phlebotomy school, and send our students to clinicals with a high level of expertise and professionalism. Recently, one of our students was told by her mentor at a clinical site that they put Vaseline or some other ointment on an infant's heel prior to the puncture. They said it prevents the blood from running. Is this kosher? If not, what should we do?

My Response:

Vaseline on a heel is one of those wacko, self-styled modifications that drive us bonkers. Of all the bizarre, unorthodox techniques we've heard of that are practiced routinely in the industry, this one really makes us bang our heads against the wall. We've heard so many quirky deviations from the standardized phlebotomy procedure over the years that I've given them a chapter all to themselves in my book, The Lab Draw Answer Book. Check it out. You'll be banging your head against the wall, too.

I don't know who came up with the idea that grease helps collect skin puncture blood, but it's been around for a while and is totally without merit, much less sense. From what we gather, the rationale seems to be that a drop of blood beads up nicer with an ointment of some kind on the skin. What we don't understand is why don't those who contrive of such things or are told of this "tip" consider the extent to which a lubricant like Vaseline might contaminate the sample and alter test results? There's a disturbing lack of critical thinking that allows a person not to question the validity of this modification.

Your student was right to bring it to your attention, and you may want to bring it to the attention of the clinical site where this is taking place. It may be just one renegade phlebotomist, or it may be pervasive among the entire staff. It's hard telling how many other things are going on that shouldn't be. We also suggest you request another phlebotomist as a mentor for your students. This one might be taking them to the "dark side" of phlebotomy. For more of what that's like, check out our video titled "Nightmare on Phlebotomy Street."


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