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Trips to the lab are not at the top of my list for most enjoyable outing. But hopefully the included tips will help make your next trip more enjoyable. 

“Let’s get some labs.” I know I can’t be alone in my feelings,  but I almost cringe when I hear this phrase now. Getting labs drawn when I first was diagnosed wasn’t a terrible process. But now seven years later I have to have a heat pack on my arm while standing on my left leg, and spinning circles, patting my head with my left ring finger and holding my mouth just right to get 3 mL of blood. IF  we are lucky.  

No one prepared me for the fact 7 years ago that taking high doses of prednisone for a long length of time would kill the already slim pickings of veins I had.  You see I have never had good veins, I used to laugh and joke that the one good vein in the bend of my arm was the only chance they had. Now that’s even gone. I have a port but getting anyone to either put in the orders to have the labs drawn from that or finding someone to actually draw the labs from said port is absolutely impossible.  

I like to do all I can to make each visit to the lab as pleasant, simple, and as straightforward as possible.  So I reached out to some of my local phlebotomists to ask what we as patients can do on our end to make things easier for us, as well as what we can do to make our visit easier for them. Here is what they had to say. 

  1. Drink water 1-2 days before – The more volume you have onboard the more plump and full your veins will be and the easier it will be for them to get what they need on the first stick. 

  2. Try to stay as warm as possible -. Staying warm will make your veins easier to find and increase circulation.

  3. Don’t drink too much caffeine like coffee or soda – These beverages actually act as a diuretic (makes you pee) and could leave you low on fluid or a little dehydrated. 

  4.  Eat if you don’t have to fast – Having food on your stomach (IF YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO FAST) will decrease the likelihood of lightheadedness or dizziness during or after your blood draw. And should help prevent you from passing out.  

  5.  Talk to the doctor about taking aspirin or other blood thinners – This shouldn’t be an issue. Most of the time you will continue to take your meds as prescribed. But always check to be sure. 

  6.  Don’t look- If you are prone to getting lightheaded or queasy during blood draws, look away, focus on something else!   

  7.  Don’t tense up – If you tense up this can cause the veins to constrict and actually make the blood draw harder.  I know easier said than done!! 

  8.  Ask for someone else – Don’t be afraid to ask for someone else if the person drawing hasn’t gotten it in two sticks.  This is your body! You aren’t a pincushion. It’s totally fair and okay for you to ask for someone else!! 

  9. Remember to show respect for your lab tech and follow their instructions – If they ask you to straighten your arm or make a fist, there is a reason, so please do as they ask! 

While the above tips would apply for IV starts as well we can’t always plan for when we will need an IV started.  So here are a few tips for when you might need an IV. 

  1. Don’t be afraid to verbalize what has worked for you in the past for IVs ex. certain locations that work or don’t work, certain techniques, etc.  

  2. Ask for a heat pack – If the nurse doesn’t use a heat pack of some kind to start your IV and is having trouble it is okay to ask for her to use one. The heat will work for IVs for the same reason as was noted above, it will help bring the vein to the surface. 

  3. Use of ultrasound- If they have an extremely hard time finding a vein,  hospitals have an IV team available. These teams have access to an ultrasound machine which makes finding a vein much, much easier. 

  4. Ask for someone else – You ALWAYS have the right to ask for someone else if the current nurse isn’t meeting your standards.  I never let one nurse stick more than twice and I have a maximum of 5 stick rule. Meaning if you can’t get it in five sticks then I’m done and we will be using my port.  

  5. Remember to respect your nurse- If they ask you to straighten out your arm, or hold still, there is a reason

At the end of the day, I don’t think that anyone really enjoys having blood drawn or an IV started.

Remember, no matter where you are at, if you are having labs drawn or an IV started, it is your body!  In the end, you have to feel comfortable with what they are doing and how they are doing it. If you aren’t then you have every right to ask for someone else to take over.  That being said we should be doing everything we can to make life easier for the phlebotomists or nurses if we know we are getting blood work done. Whether that’s drinking lots of water or avoiding caffeine. Because take it from me, as someone who has been on both sides of the bed, they don’t enjoy having to stick anyone more than one time any more than you want to be stuck more than once!  

With Love,

Amber 

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