The phlebotomist’s guide to a less painful blood draw

The phlebotomist’s guide to a less painful blood draw
March 29, 2013 Phlebotomy Training Group

It is important for a phlebotomist to know that some people do not mind having their blood drawn, while others may have a fear or a phobia (hemophobia) about it.


As a phlebotomist, you need to know what to look for and how you can make your patient feel more comfortable during the blood drawing process. This means that it is not  all about the physical pain, but it is also about the pain they experience from their fear.

What the Phlebotomist Can Do

Less Painful Blood DrawsMany people with hemophobia have an enormous fear of contracting a disease from blood. When a patient has this condition, a phlebotomist should be especially vigilant about safety and hygiene. By wearing protective gear and latex gloves, the blood draw may be easier for the patient. Even just having someone hold his/her hand during the blood draw can make an enormous difference.

The phlebotomist should always pay attention to the patient. She/he needs to know how the patient is feeling and keep talking to him/her so the patient remains engaged. This allows a phlebotomist the ability to monitor the patient closely. When an individual faints, one must be prepared to safely remove the tourniquet and needle from the patient’s arm, while ensuring he/she does not fall.

How to Make the Blood Draw Procedure Less Painful

The Tourniquet

When placing the tourniquet on your patient’s arm, only put it on as tight as is necessary. Some people actually dread the tourniquet more than the needle!

Take the tourniquet off as soon as you get a blood return.

Finding a Vein

Do not attempt to draw blood from a vein that you cannot feel. If you do, chances are you will have to stick again.

Some of your fingers will be more sensitive than other ones are. In time, you will learn which fingers you should use to feel for a vein.

If you are having difficulty feeling a vein, close your eyes as you search. If you still have no success, you can use a warm compress to help it pop up. This keeps you from redirecting repeatedly while in the patient’s arm.

Where to Draw and What to Use

Generally, drawing from the median cubital vein is less painful than drawing from a hand vein is. This is because it lies close to the surface and has fewer nerves.

If the vein you want to draw from is small, consider using a butterfly needle with a syringe instead of the vacutainer system. When drawing from your patient’s hand, always use the butterfly needle system.

Tips & Tricks

Anchor the vein you are drawing from. This is easily done by using your thumb on the hand not being used to draw. This prevents the vein from rolling.

Let the alcohol dry completely before beginning the venipuncture procedure. Otherwise, your patient will experience a burning sensation upon needle insertion. This burning can last for some time.

Only reposition the needle once or twice and be sure to pull it back a little before beginning to reposition it. When using the vacutainer system, do not pull back too far or you will lose the vacuüm in your tube.

If you try to draw blood from a particular patient twice with no success, apologize and then ask another phlebotomist to perform the blood draw. Even patients who are not afraid of blood and needles will become agitated if you continue to stick with no success.

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