Legal Issues in Phlebotomy

Phlebotomists are an integral part of a modern medical team. As such, their jobs encompass much more than the simple mechanics of blood withdrawal. An important part of a phlebotomist’s education involves learning about the ethical and legal questions associated with the field of phlebotomy. This article will provide you with a brief overview of some of the major legal issues faced by phlebotomists every day.

Informed Consent

Every medical professional must make sure that his or her patients understand and consent to every procedure. In most instances, the patient has the right to an explanation of what medical procedure is being performed and why. If the patient is a minor, her parents or guardians must provide consent on her behalf. Phlebotomists must also bear in mind that the patient has the right to refuse consent. Even if a doctor has ordered a blood draw or injection, the patient has the right to refuse any venipuncture.

Assault

You may be surprised to see assault on a list of legal issues in phlebotomy. Unfortunately, they are lurking closer to the surface than you might think. If a phlebotomist threatens someone with a needle, they have committed assault. Simply put, assault is defined as making someone fear that you will use force to harm them. This can be a sensitive issue for phlebotomists because many people have a fear of needles and the pain associated with venipuncture. A well-trained phlebotomist will know how to deal with patients in a safe and legal manner.

Battery

Assault simply involves causing someone to fear that bodily harm will come to them. For the crime of battery to take place, actual physical contact must occur. In phlebotomy, this can be an issue if a phlebotomist forces an injection on a patient against their will. If a phlebotomist intentionally holds a patient down or uses more force than necessary, he has committed battery. This can not only end a career, it can lead to ruinous lawsuits and criminal charges.

Another issue that falls into the category of assault and battery is use of a dirty needle. Even if no excessive force is used, a dirty needle can cause life-altering harm to a patient. A phlebotomist is legally responsible for ensuring the sterility of all equipment in his or her care.

Confidentiality

A patient has the right to know that their personal information will not be spread by the medical professionals who are in charge of their care. Blood withdrawals are often associated with testing for sensitive diseases, and phlebotomists will be privy to confidential information about many patients. They have a legal obligation to maintain their patients’ privacy. The law describing a patient’s right to medical privacy is commonly referred to as HIPAA. Under HIPAA, a patient has a right to confidentiality regarding any identifying information, including their diagnosis, treatment, and even birthday.

Negligence

Even if a phlebotomist has not committed one of the crimes listed above, they can still be held liable for negligence. Negligence involves four elements: duty, breach, cause, and harm. This essentially means that for a patient to sue a medical practitioner, they must show that the practitioner failed in executing their duty to the patient, which was the direct cause of harm. This may sound simple, but it has been the subject of countless long courtroom battles. Following basic phlebotomy principles is one of the best ways for a phlebotomist to help prevent charges of negligence.

Malpractice

Malpractice is a term for the type of civil lawsuits that patients generally bring against medical practitioners who have failed to follow the standard of care. If a phlebotomist is facing a malpractice suit, they are not in danger of going to jail, but they may face other severe consequences. Depending on their jurisdiction and the severity of the harm caused, a jury may award the injured party a significant financial reward.

Medical practitioners take out malpractice insurance so that they can safely afford to pay for the damages awarded in malpractice suits. Phlebotomists can choose to purchase their own malpractice insurance or they may be covered by their supervising physician. However, ultimate cost of a malpractice lawsuit may be the loss of a profitable career rather than the payment of damages. Malpractice insurance premiums often rise after a lawsuit, leading many professionals unable to continue in their chosen career paths.

Interested in learning more?

You now know more about the basics of legal issues in phlebotomy. These issues are not incidental to a safe and successful phlebotomy career; rather, they are absolutely integral. In the modern world, it is impossible to be an ethical member of a medical team without awareness of the often complicated legal issues that surround the field.

The issues discussed here are only the tip of the iceberg. If you are interested in pursuing your education and learning more about phlebotomy, contact PhlebotomyU today. We’ll give you guidance as you join this exciting and dynamic profession.

Is Bruising After Blood Donation Normal?

Many people feel anxiety about donating blood. They may be worried about the pain or nervous about the possibility of feeling light-headed or even fainting. Despite this, blood donations are an increasingly common part of modern medicine. Blood donation centers can be found everywhere, and it is likely you will someday be met with an opportunity to donate. If you have already donated blood, you may have been one of many to find an unwelcome surprise on your arms later on in the form of bruises. You’ve probably stopped to ask yourself, “Is bruising after blood donation normal?” Fortunately, though it may not be pleasant, bruising is an entirely normal issue in the field of phlebotomy. While not everyone will experience bruising every time they donate blood, if you are donating blood on a regular basis, it will almost certainly happen to you at some point. In this article, you can find out more about what causes bruising and how it can be prevented.

What causes bruising after blood donation?

The human body is host to about 100,000 miles of blood vessels. Bruising occurs when blood leaks from one of those blood vessels and pools under the skin. People have varying degrees of susceptibility to bruising. Some can suffer significant injuries with limited bruising, but others find themselves covered with bruises from seemingly minor accidents.

During a blood donation, the phlebotomist will insert a needle into a blood vessel to draw blood out of the body. In the course of this process, blood may spill from the blood vessel. It is also possible that another minor vein or capillary will be damaged in the process of donating blood. It is difficult for even the most skilled phlebotomist to avoid hitting all veins and capillaries during this process. 

Even if bruising does not occur during the blood donation process, it is important for donors and phlebotomists alike to practice proper aftercare. After donating, donors should apply pressure to the donation site to prevent blood from leaking out under the skin. They should also avoid lifting heavy objects for the remainder of the day, as this can cause additional bruising.

What can be one to avoid bruising?

Although bruising is common, donors can take action to avoid bruising. If you are planning a blood donation, avoid wearing tight clothes, as this can create unnecessary compression on the veins. A skilled phlebotomist will also be able to offer advice that can help minimize bruising. Throughout the donation process, it is important to follow any instructions your phlebotomist gives you, as this can help ensure a painless donation and decrease your chance of bruising. Fortunately, the science and technology associated with phlebotomy are always improving. Hospitals have even recently begun to introduce a new needle designed to decrease the pain associated with blood draws. Knowing this, you should be able to walk into your blood donation with confidence.

After your donation is complete, you should be careful with the arm that was used for a donation. Although you might not be feeling any pain, your body still has to work to heal itself following blood donation. After you have donated blood, a small clot will begin to form over the puncture in the blood vessel used for donation. This may sound alarming, but it is completely normal. However, agitating or exercising the donation site may dislodge the clot and cause blood to leak out into the arm. For this reason, it is a good idea to avoid choosing a donation site in your dominant arm. If you have the opportunity, you should sit and relax for a few minutes after your donation. The healing process begins immediately after the donation has ended, and it is in your best interest to allow this process to occur unimpeded.

What should I do if bruising occurs?

In most instances, bruising does not require special treatment. You can simply use a cold compress or ice pack on the bruising site to minimize pain. Donors should always consult a doctor before taking any pain medication. It is usually inadvisable to take ibuprofen or aspirin for at least 24 hours after donation, as these medications can interfere with the clotting process.

In some severe cases, it may be necessary to consult a doctor. If you experience severe pain, pain that does not diminish, numbness, swelling, or inflammation, you should seek medical treatment immediately. This is extremely rare, and most people will find that their post blood donation symptoms will be limited to some soreness, bruising, and stiffness around the donation site. You may find the bruising seems to grow in area before it disappears. This is also completely normal and is a sign that the blood is no longer concentrated around the donation site.

Interested in learning more about blood drawing?

If you would like to learn more about blood donation and phlebotomy, PhlebotomyU is here to help! Contact us today to take the first steps towards a fulfilling career as a phlebotomist. We have all the resources you need to make your dream a reality.