First times

Taking blood

Location: UK
Audience: Junior doctors Medical students
Updated: Tuesday 20 July 2021
Topics: Your wellbeing
Dr Michael Peters offers advice to medical students about how to take blood for the first time.

Watch experienced colleagues, build a rapport with your patient and don't panic - lots of practice will make perfect.

One of the tasks that medical students are privileged to do, which begins to confer on them the status of 'doctor', is taking blood from a patient.

Like all skills, we become more accomplished at taking blood the more often we do it. But again, in the same way as with other skilled tasks, taking blood can generate a great deal of anxiety the first time it is attempted.

You may be anxious about missing the vein, causing pain to the patient, spilling blood or sustaining a needlestick injury.

What we tend to forget is that patients may often be more anxious about having blood taken than we are about taking the blood. They may also be feeling more worried about the reason they are having blood taken, and what the results may be. Often the patient's anxiety can make us feel a lot more anxious about the procedure too, but it is important to try to remain calm as this will be reassuring to the patient.

Before taking blood for the first time it is important to spend time watching experienced colleagues and getting them to talk you through the procedure. When the time comes for you to take blood, work at establishing a rapport with the patient - they may be feeling anxious, but they could also end up putting you at your ease.

If you are feeling anxious try to recall other skilled tasks you have mastered, such as learning to drive a car.

If things are not straightforward, don't panic.

You may feel confident enough to try again but, if not, explain the situation to the patient and perhaps ask a colleague to take the blood.

Even though you might see this as a failure, don't despair and don't avoid taking blood when the next opportunity arises. It is only by doing this that you will eventually acquire the confidence and skills to take blood.

Good luck!

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