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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Special Topics in Phlebotomy. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Clean Up Your Act

During a blood collection, bacteria that is present on the skin surface may adhere to the outside of the needle as it enters into the vein. This can allow bacteria to infect the puncture site. A serious infection of the blood (septicemia) or of the tissue (cellulitis) may result. To avoid an infection, it is imperative that the phlebotomist uses a technique that thoroughly cleanses the skin at the site prior to venipuncture.

Once the phlebotomist locates a suitable vein for venipuncture, the site of the vein that will be punctured is cleaned with a pre-packaged wipe saturated with 70% isopropyl alcohol.

The site is cleansed using a "target" motion beginning at the center of the site and moving outward in concentric circles applying enough pressure to move surface bacteria away from the puncture point. (This is demonstrated in the image on the right). It is not recommended to use a scrubbing back and forth motion to clean the site since you may drag bacteria from a dirty area back into the clean area. Allow alcohol to air dry for effective disinfection of the site. Never use non-sterile gauze to wipe dry the alcohol as this will contaminate the site.

During the remainder of the procedure, the site must NOT be touched by anything that has not been cleaned in an identical manner.

  • The phlebotomist should avoid retouching the site after cleaning. If it is absolutely necessary to re-palpate, the phlebotomist MUST clean the gloved finger in a manner identical to the above procedure.
  • Make certain that no other piece of equipment touches the site. This includes ends of the tourniquet and gauze. If you suspect that your needle has touched the site before entry, dispose of the needle, re-clean the site and repeat the procedure using a new needle.

If a patient complains that there is redness or pain at the puncture site, even hours or days after the procedure, immediately refer the patient to his/her physician for evaluation.