Professionals who work in the healthcare community must adhere to specific guidelines concerning safety regulations and procedures. Those who adhere to such guidelines help to ensure their own safety in addition to the safety of their colleagues and patients.
As phlebotomy technicians are included in the healthcare community as allied-health workers, they are expected to uphold such guidelines. These guidelines are issued by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly known as OSHA.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration have strict guidelines concerning safety measures as the techniques included help to prevent the spread of diseases. Safety measures include the use of personal protective equipment, commonly known as PPE, in addition to the proper use and disposal of used phlebotomy equipment.
Medical Exam Gloves
One of the first safety precautions that a phlebotomist learns during his or her training is the importance of wearing medical exam gloves. This form of personal protective equipment is important as it creates a barrier between human hands and pathogens that may be present in biological specimens and on contaminated surfaces. As such, it helps to prevent the spread of disease-causing micro-organisms. Although wearing medical exam gloves help to prevent the spread of diseases, it is also important to learn how to properly remove and dispose of such equipment.
The Removal of Medical Exam Gloves
- The first step in removing these gloves includes a slow, careful, gentle grasp of the cuff of one glove. This is done with the tip of the forefinger and thumb of the other hand. During this process, it is important not to touch the skin of the wrist or hand from which the glove is being removed.
- Once the cuff is grabbed, gently peel the glove half way. This will result in a glove turned inside-out.
- While the glove is partially on the hand, use the forefinger and thumb of this hand to completely remove the glove from the covered hand. While doing so, grab the other glove to create a ball.
- Once both gloves are removed, they should be disposed of in a lined container. It is required that a new pair of gloves be worn for each patient.
Although medical exam gloves are used during phlebotomy procedures, the use of soap and water is always recommended. As such, all phlebotomists should wash their hands once the gloves are removed. This procedure represents an additional precautionary measure against the spread of disease-causing organisms.
Personal protective equipment is also found in the form of laboratory coats. These coats are also known as white coats. Phlebotomy technicians make use of these coats as it helps to protect their clothing from possible contamination. Such professionals may be exposed to contaminants by way of accidental spillage or direct contact with pathogens that are likely found at various work stations.
Needles and Blood Tube Holders
Precautionary measures always come with the use of needles. As a professional phlebotomist, he or she must use needles in a manner that will ensure the safety of all individuals. While using such phlebotomy equipment, it is important to never recap, bend or unscrew used needles from a blood tube holder. Recapping, bending or unscrewing needles can cause phlebotomists to accidentally incur a needlestick injury. As needles may be contaminated, this can introduce bloodborne pathogens into the circulatory system of such professionals. Bloodborne pathogens include HIV, HBV and HCV. The direct exposure of such pathogens will results in the contraction of related diseases.
In order to prevent the spread of diseases and needlestick injuries, phlebotomy technicians should dispose of all used needles and sharps. Disposing of such equipment should be done immediately upon the completion of a blood collection procedure. The entire unit should be disposed of in a sharps container as they are puncture resistant and leak proof. Again, disconnecting or unscrewing units is not advisable. These containers are accessible in all medical facilities and laboratories settings. They can easily be identified by its red or yellow color.
The Reuse of Phlebotomy Equipment
Although tube holders were made to be reused in phlebotomy procedures, it is not recommended to do so. As the reuse of such equipment requires the disconnection of a needle, this exposes a phlebotomy technician to various diseases. As a precautionary measure, it is advisable to use a new needle and tube holder for each patient.
The safety in any laboratory or medical setting begins with the phlebotomist. Such professional must adhere to the safety regulations and procedures put forth by OSHA and his or her work place. By following theses regulations, a phlebotomy technician helps to ensure his or her own safety in addition to the safety of others. As each professional performs his or her job duties in accordance with such safety procedures, many lives could be speared from such life-threatening diseases.
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