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What Should We Do?

Locking up the needles

by Dennis Ernst • June 18, 2019


Dear Center for Phlebotomy Education:

Good morning! We recently had some inspectors come through our outpatient draw sites and were concerned with our needle storage. We have patient draw rooms where the patient is rarely left  alone and never left alone with the door shut. The maximum amount of time patients could be left alone with the door open in approximately 2 minutes. The inspectors felt that we should lock up our needles and adapters as well as our butterfly needles at all times. Does this sound like a patient safety concern or do you think they're going too far? What should we do?

My response:

Generally speaking, needle theft by patients is highly unusual and a rare occurrence. Of course, if you're in an area of the country or a part of the city where IV drug abuse is rampant, the potential for needle theft increases proportionately. It seems that there are easier sources for addicts to obtain free needles than to go to a lab or outpatient drawing station with an order for lab work and hope the phlebotomist leaves the room.

You didn't mention the nature of the inspection agency, but I'm going to assume it was for laboratory or hospital accreditation. OSHA would not be concerned with needle theft. Regardless, it seems to us the inspector's concerns are being overplayed. Locking up your phlebotomy supplies in case a phlebotomist leaves the room is a significant impediment to the workflow. The easier solution would be to establish a policy that patients are not allowed to be in the drawing area without a phlebotomist or other member of the staff. That should satisfy the inspectors if the issue continues to be a cause for their concern. 


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