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Blood, Sweat, and Tears: IANM V4 Story

This story is included in the V4 edition of Safety Partners’ publication, “Incidents, Accidents, and Near Misses in Laboratory Research.”

I was working for a medical device company as a member of the Research and Development group. We were hard at work on a formulation needed for a product. Our product required testing through our Quality Control group, and this required blood. Not only did we figuratively give our blood, sweat and tears to our research, we were literally giving our own blood for our tests!

We set up an in-house blood donor program so any and all employees could donate blood quickly and easily.  My friend Dave and I helped set everything up – chairs, vials, tubes, tables.  With Dave’s brawn and my planning, we felt we had everything under control and we were the first volunteers lined up to donate!

Apparently, my planning skills weren’t nearly up to snuff. There were some critical factors I was missing in the planning process, as I would soon find out.

Everything went smoothly when we collected Dave’s blood donation—easy!  But when this normally tough and capable co-worker got up to go, he turned ghostly white and suddenly all six feet four inches of him collapsed to the floor. I panicked and would later learn the hard way that we needed to be more careful in our screening and prep process. As a scientist, taking blood is easy, but the before and after care is critical when working with living, breathing test subjects.

Luckily, we had a clinical department and one of the nurses happened to be there.  She came rushing in, and her first questions quickly highlighted where we went wrong.

“Did he have anything to eat?” she patiently asked.

“Did he have anything to drink?”

Attempting to slow my heart rate after Dave passed out, I tried to think. I had spent most of the day with Dave and strained my brain cells to remember…did I see him eat anything?  Drink anything? 

I felt sheepish.

“Uuuuuhhhh….” I responded, looking at my feet. “I can’t say that he did.”

And honestly, as he was coming around, I realized that we hadn’t put much thought into the actual blood collection protocol at all. It was just an area smack in the middle of the lab, situated more out of convenience than for safety. R&D is here, then we have Engineering here. And then Quality Control was on the back side. We had set up shop in this area in the middle, and that’s where we would draw the blood — within the lab zone.

We instituted a policy around how to provide the right environment so employees could feel confident to donate blood. Comfortable, away for the lab, juices and snacks, etc.  Even if they felt woozy, we had their backs.

The Lesson

OSHA mandates infection control practices to prevent the spread of bloodborne pathogens, but the World Health Organization also recommends the development of standard operating procedures for phlebotomy, including selecting the right location for blood draws and ensuring the patient is adequately prepared for donation.[i]

[i] WHO Guidelines in Drawing Blood: Best Practices In Phlebotomy. http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/268790/WHO-guidelines-on-drawing-blood-best-practices-in-phlebotomy-Eng.pdf?ua-.Accessed Dec 31 2018.

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