What is the importance of PPE for Phlebotomy?
Importance of PPE for Phlebotomists
PPE abbreviated for Personal Protective Equipment is used to protect an individual from possible hazard or infection. Healthcare workers are in an environment that is at high risk of transmission of deadly pathogens. Most of them are in contact with the bodily fluids of the patients who may have contracted serious illnesses. For this purpose all the healthcare personnel don PPE which provides an additional layer of protection. One such healthcare field is phlebotomy where PPE for phlebotomy is absolutely essential. In this article, we will cover the role of PPE in phlebotomy.
What is Phlebotomy?
Phlebotomy is a term that many are unaware of. While most of them may have used this facility, but are still unaware of the term. The term comprises the use of a needle to draw blood from one’s veins which in most cases is one’s arm. Considering that the personnel performing phlebotomy may come in contact with blood, PPE for phlebotomy becomes compulsory.
The term phlebotomy is derived from the Greek words phelps & tomia. While phelps means veins, tomia means cutting. Which essentially signifies vein cutting as the early phlebotomy was about bloodletting. Bloodletting is an ancient practice where blood was removed from the patient’s body to prevent the disease or to cure it. Phlebotomy is also called venipuncture or blood draw.
Interesting Fact - In ancient times, even leeches were used for phlebotomy. Check out more about leech phlebotomy.
While in ancient times, and even until the recent past, Phlebotomy was used as a cure for just about every other illness. With the rise of modern science, medicine, and healthcare, the side effects & even the dangerous risks associated with phlebotomy were found out. One of the infamous deaths due to phlebotomy was of George Washington, the first president of the US.
Phlebotomy, in modern scenarios, is used for the diagnosis & treatment of some medical conditions & illnesses. When phlebotomy is used for the treatment of a medical illness, then it is termed therapeutic phlebotomy. In it, excessive RBCs (red blood cells) are removed. This is done with the patients who have diseases related to RBCs.
Who are Phlebotomists?
The job of a phlebotomist is to perform phlebotomy which essentially means drawing blood from one’s veins (in some cases from capillaries as well). So, a phlebotomist is responsible for collecting blood samples. These blood samples may be further sent for diagnosis, research, tests, or even for blood transfer or donations. In therapeutic phlebotomy, the role of a phlebotomist is to withdraw the required amount of blood for the treatment of the disease. Phlebotomists always don PPE. Let’s find out more about it.
Do you want to become a phlebotomist? Find out how to become a phlebotomist!
Why do Phlebotomists need to wear PPE? Why is PPE important for Phlebotomists?
The work of a phlebotomist is usually at a hospital, lab, or healthcare institution (or center). They are at a high risk of contact with bodily fluids which may be infected by pathogens. For the sake of protection of phlebotomists from potential infections & transmissions, PPE for phlebotomy is provided. PPE for phlebotomy acts as a shield, an additional layer of defense against these pathogens. PPE covers the skin, nasal passage, respiratory tract, and clothes of a phlebotomist.
Note - PPE for phlebotomy must be disposed of properly after they have been exhausted. As the PPE is mostly single-use, their disposal must be taken care of to prevent the transmission of the disease, if any.
How is PPE for phlebotomy decided?
In most cases, the selection of certain PPE for phlebotomy is easy, while for a few it is tough. The decision of shortlisting and, then finally deciding the PPE for phlebotomy firstly decides upon the workplace. In a healthcare institution, the necessary PPE must be donned by phlebotomists apart from the PPE for phlebotomy.
OSHA helps in shortlisting & selection of PPE. For the selection of PPE, there are hazard identification and risk assessments. According to the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, even task assessments are necessary in most cases. This standard helps in the proper selection of the PPE for phlebotomy which ensures the safety of a phlebotomist.
Which PPE is necessary for Phlebotomists?
SAFETY HAND GLOVES
It is no rocket science that a phlebotomist would require hand gloves. It is simple logic that a phlebotomist needs to draw blood, and there is a high risk that their hands can come in contact with the bodily fluid. The hand gloves used by the phlebotomists must be clean & preferably single-use. They must always be donned when the blood or any other bodily fluid is being withdrawn. Moreover, they must always be present even if the phlebotomist needs to touch the skin of the patient.
The selection of gloves for a phlebotomist is relatively easier. Moreover, every phlebotomist in any condition needs to don hand gloves while performing their task of withdrawing blood with absolutely no exceptions. If the hand gloves are single-use, then they must be discarded accordingly. Phlebotomists take extreme care while donning as well as doffing hand gloves. Hand gloves can be made up of nitrile, latex, or any other material that restricts & barricades the entry of bodily fluids.
Note - Vinyl gloves should never be used by a phlebotomist.
Curious ones can check out more details about safety hand gloves.
PPE GOWNS, COVERALLS & LAB COATS
Coveralls are seldom used by phlebotomists. They are donned in some healthcare institutions, only if necessary (such as in the COVID-19 pandemic). PPE gowns & lab coats are more preferred by phlebotomists. They are worn to protect their skin from bodily fluids. Moreover, they also keep the clothes of the phlebotomists neat & clean. While PPE gowns are mostly disposable, lab coats are available in two types, both disposable as well as reusable ones. PPE gowns must be disposed of after single-use by following proper doffing procedure. Bodily fluids cannot penetrate the material of these bodies & skin protection PPE.
The selection of PPE gowns or lab coats can be slightly more difficult, complex, and depends upon the phlebotomist. According to the OSHA standards, any personnel working in a potential zone of splashes & exposure situations need to don a PPE gown or a lab coat. But, the problem arises while using reusable lab coats. Phlebotomists may wear these lab coats throughout the day without replacing them. This can violate the safety of the other health personnel & patients. So, it becomes important for creating certain standards & regulations for these lab coats.
Another way of selection is by starting with risk & task (includes type of equipment used) assessments. Depending upon the task & the risk associated with it, a phlebotomist can make a decision. If the risk of bodily fluid splashing above the wrists is low, then a phlebotomist can skip using a lab coat or PPE gown. If the risk is higher, then the use of a PPE gown or lab coat is necessary and must be donned compulsorily.
Curious ones can check out more details about body protection PPE.
FACE MASKS & RESPIRATORS
During the COVID-19 pandemic, phlebotomists had donned respirators. If there is a risk of any airborne transmission, then donning a respirator for a phlebotomist is highly recommended. Face masks are donned by phlebotomists to protect them from saliva droplets (which may cause transmission of any disease)
FACE SHIELDS & EYE GOGGLES
Face shields are donned by phlebotomists to protect the face from splashes of bodily fluids. Similarly, eye goggles are worn to protect the eyes from splashes of bodily fluids. The selection of the face shields & eye goggles is simple. If a phlebotomist thinks there is a risk of splashes, then they should don face shields & eye goggles. In most cases, donning these PPE is a better option.
Phlebotomists are medical personnel who work on collecting blood samples. PPE for phlebotomists is necessary for their protection against bodily fluid splashes and infection transmissions. The PPE used by phlebotomists is safety gloves, eye goggles, face shields, lab coats, PPE gowns, coveralls, respirators, and face masks.