Why safe blood collection is more important to nurses in 2023 than ever before

Last edited: | Safe Blood Collection - Back to overview

In recent years, we’ve all witnessed the sustained pressure on frontline healthcare professionals. Yet while the public's appreciation for the skill and sacrifice demonstrated by healthcare workers has increased, public trust in healthcare systems and even science itself, has taken a hit [1]. Could a renewed focus on safety in blood collection - this most basic and ubiquitous of medical procedures - hold the key to restoring the confidence of nurses and patients alike? 

“[Before Covid] healthcare professionals seldom had to worry that one day their work would put their health, maybe even their lives at risk” says Constance Mak, a registered nurse and phlebotomy technician based in Hong Kong.

But the effects of the pandemic will endure for many years to come; nursing staff retention will remain a challenge on top of the existing health and safety responsibilities of a care worker, yet teams are coping and adjusting amid surges in demand, adapting to new patterns of working and training.

So how are healthcare providers protecting their nurses from infection; so that they can do their jobs, and aren’t put off a career in nursing in the first place?

The hazards nurses face today

Staff are acutely aware that they are exposed to the risk of infection in a hospital or clinic. There are often breakouts of multi-resistant bacteria, and for a phlebotomist, these risks are heightened. Hep B, Hep C and HIV can be contracted from a needlestick injury and blood potentially carries a risk of bloodborne infection if not collected, handled, and stored properly.

“Collecting blood and setting up an intravenous catheter - these are the two major high risk and high volume procedures our healthcare professionals perform in acute and emergency settings. And needlestick injuries usually happen during use and before disposal.”

Constance Mak

Nurse fatigue and patient safety

How do healthcare professionals stay safe during phlebotomy? Around the world, nurses are managing increasing caseloads, surges in the demand of clinical care [2] , and interruptions to the availability of quality products. All this amid squeezed budgets and a crisis in nurse retention [3]. Factors that increase stress for both healthcare professionals and patients and raise the chance of injury during blood draw.

“There are several different clinical situations that make phlebotomy challenging, but no untrained soldiers come to the battlefield” says Constance. Like Hong Kong, many countries of the Asia Pacific region, including Australia, South Korea and Singapore, rank highly among global healthcare provision [4].  The pandemic focused the need for a culture of safety throughout healthcare.

Constance is keen to emphasize the rigorous and mandatory training for accreditation in phlebotomy certification that all healthcare professionals must complete and maintain in order to perform blood collection, as well as the regular audits that hospitals and clinics are subject to.

Are nurses at risk during blood collection?

In the last twenty years, the methods for collecting blood have also evolved to protect both nurse and patient: “Like a lot of the world, we’ve used the closed collection system for drawing blood samples; safer sharps devices keep the risk of exposure to a minimum during blood collection from a patient”. The use of a non-contained, exposed syringe needle in blood collection [open collection] was the cause for the high incidence of infection from injury and was the standard when Constance began her career [5].

“Today, sharps have to adhere to a specific safety design; these types of closed collection systems all have safety features, like enabling the covering of needles before and immediately after use, protecting healthcare professionals and patients. And it also protects the healthcare workers downstream who are handling the disposal of contaminated sharps.”

Being able to rely on a quality, safety-engineered device for this method allows staff to perform their tasks with the minimum of fuss. It’s essential for times like these, when high risk/high volume procedures need to be performed by fewer staff, patients need added reassurance, and samples have to be delivered quickly and safely to the lab.

The Expert

With thanks to Constance Mak

In a career spanning over forty years, Constance Mak, RN, RM, BSN is an International Phlebotomy Technician of American Society of Clinical Pathologists, a research nurse at the University of Hong Kong and acts as a Clinical Consultant for Greiner Bio-One, a blood-collection consumables provider who many associate with safety. 

[1] https://www.edelman.com/trust/2023/trust-barometer/special-report-health

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9914666/ 

[3] https://www.icn.ch/news/icn-report-says-shortage-nurses-global-health-emergency 

[4] ISBN (WHO) 978-92-4-004061-8 , electronic version: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240040618 

[5] Jagger J, Perry J, Gomaa A, Phillips EK. The impact of U.S. policies to protect healthcare workers from bloodborne pathogens: the critical role of safety-engineered devices. J Infect Public Health. 2008;1(2):62-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jiph.2008.10.002. Epub 2008 Nov 26. PMID: 20701847.

Safety and value, it’s in our blood

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