Overcoming a Fear of Drawing Blood
Phlebotomy, or drawing blood, may be part of your duties as a medical assistant. You’ll learn this skill during medical assisting school. Learning to master this skill is often required for graduation from the program. Performing phlebotomy may make you uncomfortable or even fearful. If you experience anxiety over drawing blood, don’t feel alone; many other medical assistants have suffered from the same problem. With practice and time, you can increase your confidence in performing phlebotomy.
How Can I Increase my Phlebotomy Skill?
When it comes to phlebotomy, practice really does make perfect. The more you practice each step of the procedure, the more comfortable you’ll be. Medical assistants draw blood two ways; by venipuncture or capillary puncture. Venipuncture taps into a vein while capillary puncture is usually performed with a small lancet to the fingertip or heel.
Fear of phlebotomy may stem from being unfamiliar with the equipment used for the procedure. Make sure you have plenty of practice in assembling and using phlebotomy equipment, including how to use a vacutainer, butterfly needle and syringe for drawing blood. Become familiar with different gauge needles and when to use them, as well as blood collection tubes.
If you’re currently in medical assisting school, utilize the program’s phlebotomy practice arms for practice. These are plastic arms which contain internal tubes that represent veins. Each tube is filled with colored fluid, so you’ll know if you’ve performed the vein stick properly. Your instructor will likely make the phlebotomy arms available for ample practice. Perform phlebotomy on the arms as many times as needed to help you perfect your technique and use of the equipment.
How Can I Be Comfortable Drawing Blood on Real People?
Once you’ve mastered drawing blood on the practice arm, it’s time to accelerate your skill to real people. During medical assisting school, you’ll have the opportunity to perform phlebotomy on other medical assisting students and eventually, patients.
A common reason for fear of performing phlebotomy is reluctance to cause another person pain or discomfort. You can overcome your fear of causing pain by:
- Understanding that pain is momentary as the vein punctures the skin. Once you’ve perforated the vein, your patient will be more comfortable.
- Being a great patient educator. Being able to educate your patient about the procedure and what to expect can be empowering.
- Learning to relax and control your own emotions. The more relaxed you are while performing phlebotomy, the more relaxed your patient will be. Patients who are tense or anxious will have a heightened sense of pain. Helping your patient relax reduces overall discomfort.
Some medical assistants fear performing phlebotomy due to an underlying fear of blood. As a medical assistant, you know about the circulatory system and the important, vital functions blood plays in supporting life. Viewing blood as a normal part of human anatomy and function may help.
Knowing that exposure to blood can put you at risk for HIV-AIDS and Hepatitis can also cause fear of phlebotomy. Become comfortable with universal precautions that can protect you, like wearing gloves, and splash protection like goggles and an impermeable gown. Becoming familiar with how to properly discard phlebotomy needles is also helpful in overcoming fear of blood exposure.
Take every opportunity you can to practice phlebotomy and hone your skill. You may be able to train with a blood bank, the American Red Cross or in a hospital or clinic laboratory.
What if I Can’t Overcome My Fear?
Unless you’re studying an administrative medical assistant only course, you’ll have to complete some phlebotomy during your education. Ultimately, if you feel that you’re not able to overcome your fear of drawing blood, be sure to look for a position in which it’s not required.
As a medical assistant, you have many choices in where to work. While some MAs perform clinical, laboratory and administrative duties, not all do. You may be able to work in a clinic where only laboratory staff performs phlebotomy. Knowing how to perform phlebotomy helps medical assistants be versatile and in-demand; face your fear and do what’s needed to overcome it. Not only will you feel pride in conquering your fear, you’ll increase your professional marketability as well.