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Drawing Blood

JeffJeff Wonoprabowo -- I'm not a big fan of needles. Never have been, either. So you can probably understand the anxiety I felt when I first heard we were going to have a blood lab for Pathology class. I had a blood lab in Anatomy & Physiology class when I was a senior in high school. In that blood lab we were supposed to prick our own fingers in order to figure out our own blood type. It took me multiple tries. The first few tries were unsuccessful because my right hand just couldn't prick my left hard enough. Maybe I just have a fear of pain. When I finally drew blood, I couldn't get enough. I only got one drop (the first drop was supposed to be thrown away). At the end of the lab I had two or three fingers pricked, each having donated a single drop of blood that could not be used.

Well my anxiety turned into trepidation when I found out that we weren't going to be finger-pricking. Instead, we would be pairing up and drawing blood from each other -- with a tourniquet, needle, vacuum tube, pumping fist, and all. To top it off, most of my classmates have never drawn blood before and my skin isn't light enough that my veins are easily visible.

Our class was split into two sections. One section would go in at 1:00 and the second would go at 2:30. I was in the second group. A few days prior to the lab, I started overhearing people talk about this lab and trying to partner up. I figured that I could easily find a partner once I got to lab, so I didn't bother asking classmates if I could stick them with a needle.

When it was time for my section to begin, I was ready on time and found a seat in the lab. I looked around, but it seemed that most people were already paired up. So I sat and waited a while. I noticed someone who had no partner, but she soon found someone. I stopped looking for a partner once our instructor began showing us how to draw blood using a volunteer. They had a camera so we could all watch what was happening on some large LCD TV screens.

Anyways, I finally found the one person in the lab who still didn't have a partner. He offered to let me draw blood first. I accepted and started laying out my supplies. After I laid out everything I needed, I tied the tourniquet on his arm and started looking for a nice vein. That was the easy part. This guy had white skin and large, superficial veins that were easily visible. I wiped the area with some alcohol wipes, uncapped the needle, pointed the bezel up and nervously looked at the arm.

I'm glad one of the nurses was standing right next to me as I pushed the needle in. "You're barely in," she said to me.

I pushed in deeper, and then popped the vacuum tube into place and -- nothing. "Now, pull out a little more," she told me.

I pulled back slowly and suddenly blood rushed into the tube. After I got what I needed, I took off the tube and turned it over a couple times.


accomplished. At that point I was just glad I didn't need to poke my partner multiple times.

My first time drawing blood was pretty exciting (although I may be just easily amused). It is a little strange pushing a needle into someone. I know it gets old very fast. Nurses do it all the time and think nothing of it. And with time, I'm sure I'll think nothing of it either (and probably won't feel it's worth writing about either). But for now, it remains unnatural. And for now, it's still something interesting enough (for me, at least) to write about.

October 26, 2008 in Jeff Wonoprabowo | Permalink


Great post, i loved it! i am interested in all things medical, so i really liked hearing about your "first time"...glad to hear it went smoothly and i don't blame you, it must have been kind of exciting. Now, what happened when it was y o u r turn to be the "victim"? Did the vampire get ya?

Posted by: tfb | Oct 27, 2008 6:46:21 AM

Hey Jeff,

Good job with your first stick! I too am curious about what happened with you as the "victim." In the beginning, it can be comforting to rely on the characteristic blue veins for a stick. Now that I'm well on my way to a career where needle sticks are currency, I can give you this advice: it's not the color you want to look for, it's the full and soft bouncy structure you want to feel. (And usually with an ungloved finger - that's why you'll see ED nurses cut a finger tip off their gloves.) That blue could be a flat superficial vein, but once you've got the bounce, the blood will be flowing in seconds.

Posted by: thomas | Oct 27, 2008 4:54:33 PM

Good job not poking your partners several times. Blood drawing gets people uneasy even when done by someone who has done it millions of times before. But to get blood drawn by a classmate who probably won't be quite as tactful at it as a nurse is totally mindblowing. I'd feel very uncomfortable and rather do it myself LOL (even if i couldn't). Very interesting article!! I wonder when my first time will be ><.

P.S. I'm fine with needles. I like vaccinations and I'm fine with blood drawing (although both hurts).

Posted by: workaholic888 | Oct 29, 2008 9:41:18 AM

Now try a lumbar puncture!, is's a real sweat (did it a week ago, thankfully the patient was unconcious)

Posted by: Pepe Telich | Oct 29, 2008 11:45:30 AM

Jeff, I understand your fear and excitement... I had a class similar to yours this month!

Well, I don't know if your partner could get it right in the first time he tried to draw your blood, but in my case that did not happen! My friend wasn't successful until her third attempt!

I guess it was because she had to do it by just feeling them - it is really hard to see my veins... But, except from that (and the purple spots that appeared later) I guess the rest went fine =)

Cheers from Brazil!


Posted by: Ana | Oct 29, 2008 5:59:35 PM

I did my medical schooling from India and here we dont really have fancy LCDs to demonstrate how to withdraw blood...neither do we have to practice it on normal people like my colleagues or actors or whoever. We kind of just jump the bandwagon and have our 'first times' with real patients itself...that kind of thrill and nervousness in my opinion is unparalled. We watch one, do one, teach one. The credit in its major part goes to the patients who accept us 'newcomers' openly...one said to me, 'You should practice all you can on me...How else will you learn?' No legal suits to fear, only a whole lot of trust and encouragement to acknowledge.

Posted by: Sonali Inamdar | Oct 30, 2008 4:07:27 AM

Drawing blood can be a disaster for some. We like sonali dont have all that training to draw blood. So my friend tried her hand with supervision on a willing student at a blood donation camp, the huge cannula went in fine and blood started running into the bag. She got nervous and didnt advance the cannula far enough into the vein, so after sometime the flow made it came out and we had a bloody mess with the blood oozing out from the prick site. The guy from the blood bank put it into another vein. My friend freaked out and didnt try it again for a few months.
After hundreds of vampire days (when you keep on drawing blood), it is a nice joke now but she is still apprehensive about going into a vein.

Posted by: partha | Oct 30, 2008 5:47:47 AM

hehe there's a lot of "first time" during medschool, first body seen, drawing blood, Lumbar puncture, stitches, scrubbing in, first baby delivered, first necropsy performed, chest tube, central lines... and they are all exciting since they are all new experiences at their time...

It's also normal to get nervous and anxious about them, I remember when I was in Surgery, I had read thousands of times the technique to place a chest tube, memorize it, knew the relevant anatomy to it, and even watch the NEJM video a lot of times as well... When I had the opportunity to place one, I asked the attending, he gave me the permission under his supervision of course and well, I was nervous but still focused on everything I knew.

Then I did an stupid newbie mistake! the typical newbie contamination in surgery mistake... we had already sterilized the area, we had the surgical fields on the patient and then his arm slightly moved away from the original and correct position, so in order to follow the technique given in NEJM video, I wanted to correct his arm but I forgot I had my STERILE gloves on already... so I touched him in the not previously sterilized area... and then I got the attending who as a good surgeon got really out of nerves yelling at me and everything!

Fortunately I just had to change gloves, I didnt touch the already clean surgical area, I hadn't cut the patient open yet and I could keep on going, and even though the attending got me even more nervous by his yelling, I still tried to stay focus and finally did it kinda good.

My point is that no matter how many things have u read, how well do u know the technique/procedure, there will always be potential mistakes u could make as a newbie and only practice would minimize that risk in further procedures...

so keep practicing!

Posted by: Diego Nova | Oct 30, 2008 3:46:48 PM

Thanks for the encouragement, everyone.

I've submitted part two of this post so it should be up soon.

Posted by: Jeff W | Oct 30, 2008 3:53:47 PM

Ah, I am so glad for your accomplishment... I have a similar problem with needles, pain and fear. The nurses are always afraid of the way I 'present' myself during blood tests or even vaccinations!! I'm just hoping I have the same success story when my turn comes and I'd get to draw blood from the other person first!!

Posted by: Sharon | Jun 18, 2009 11:03:05 AM

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