In a career focused on venipuncture, phlebotomists handle needles every day. However, phlebotomy is much more than blood draws – it is a career committed to the health and well-being of others and we must abide by all safety protocols. Whether we are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or to follow needle disposal regulations, phlebotomists have a responsibility to create a healthy and safe environment. Each needle has a different system for securing the needle and are simple to use.
Every needle is required to have a safety feature that can be activated once a blood draw has been completed. Needle safety features are an integral part of the device and not an accessory; they are one of the most important venipuncture components. The safety features must provide immediate permanent containment of the needle and the ability to initiate it with a single hand, which must always stay behind the needle.
The most common safety feature are re-sheathing devices. These are shields that cover the needle or retract the needle after use, such as a needle cap and safety lock. The safety feature for the ETS needle is simple to use, requiring little or no training to use effectively. Most evacuated tube systems (ETS) needles have pre-attached needle covers, but needles that do not come with safety features must be connected to tube holders that have a safety feature.
Re-sheathing covers, as well as other needle safety devices, prevent the repeated use of needles and do not penetrate, cut, or scratch anyone who are disposing the needles. With a cover on a used needle, patients and phlebotomists reduce their risk of contracting Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV.
Butterfly needles are much smaller than the standard needle gauge and typically do not lock over the needle like the ETS system does. Instead, butterfly needles require the use of a spring mechanism that is activated by pushing a button on the device after the blood draw has been completed. The spring will retract the needle safely and quickly inside the device, ensuring that the needle is covered and secured.
For butterfly needles that do not have the button activated spring, it likely uses the same retraction method, but requires the phlebotomist to retract the needle by pulling on the device by hand instead.
Syringe needles possess a very similar in design to the ETS system. They will use the same safety feature that is activated by sheathing the needle with a fixed plastic cover that locks in place, which can be adhered to a tube holder with a needle sheath. Unlike traditional ETS systems, syringe needles utilize a transfer device to input the blood into a tube.
A syringe transfer device is utilized to relocate blood from a syringe into an ETS tube. The transfer device allows phlebotomists to safely move the patient’s blood into the tubes without using the syringe needle or removing the tube stopper.
After blood has been collected into a syringe and the needle safety activated, the needle is removed, and the transfer device is attached to the syringe. ETS tubes are then placed inside the transfer device the same as inserting tubes into the ETS system.
The video below further explains the syringe transfer device process.
As phlebotomists, knowing how to properly retract a needle or engage the safety lock and needle cap is just as important as anchoring a vein and drawing blood. Receiving an education that teaches the fundamentals of safety devices will serve as a benefit to your career as a phlebotomist.
At PhlebotomyU, we offer a Certified Phlebotomy Technician I (CPT I) course and help students gain experience with multiple needle gauges and their respective safety equipment. With 40 hours of classroom engagement and a 140 -hour externship, there are guaranteed to see device safety measures in the field. Contact PhlebotomyU today to enroll in our CPT I course.