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Venipuncture Tips and Tools for Allied Health Care Students

Many professions in the health care industry require the ability to locate a vein or artery and insert a needle for injections or blood extractions. Some of these include a phlebotomist, nurse, medical assistant, respiratory therapist, radiologist and cardiovascular tech. If you're avoiding a job in health care because of a fear of needles or concern that your inability to locate a "good" vein might cause unnecessary pain to a patient, you could be missing out on a fulfilling career with lots to offer, including impressive job growth.

Allied Health

In fact, a number of health care jobs are expected to grow much faster than the national average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov). For instance, employment of phlebotomists is projected to grow 27 percent from 2012 to 2022. Employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 29 percent during the same time period.

Training for health care students

A solid education and training can give you the confidence you need to do these jobs, as can tools designed to let you practice hands-on skills before you perform procedures on real patients.

When learning to inject a patient with a needle -- whether it's for drawing blood, inserting a catheter or IV, or another medical procedure -- students' number one fear is that they will hurt the patient. "They are afraid that they will fail to do the invasive procedure properly, that they will have to re-stick the patient and that the patient will get angry at them and deem them incompetent," says Ellen Chiofalo, vice president of institutional effectiveness at Allied Health Institute -- a postsecondary school providing instruction for a variety of allied health vocations.

Chiofalo's all-time best advice for students is to learn on simulators prior to human beings to gain confidence. "I believe in simulation before realization," she says.

Cool tools to support growing expertise in venipuncture

So how can students gain the confidence that Chiofalo speaks about? Back in 1999, Chiofalo invented a training tool that can help. Nasco's Life/form® Venatech IV Trainer is a device that attaches to the body and simulates whatever movement or action is made. It allows students to become proficient in inserting needles without injuring or inflicting pain upon others during the learning process. In addition, students can practice proper positioning on an actual human arm, without the risks associated with puncturing living tissue.

The Venatech IV Trainer depicts the main veins used in phlebotomy -- cephalic, basilic and median cubital -- in proper anatomical positions. It's also equipped with an arterial vessel for arterial blood simulation. This feature alerts students when they've done an incorrect puncture -- such as through a vein into an artery - so they can learn how to correct the mistake. The device comes in clear as well as light and dark skin colors, so students can visualize what they're doing. Mock skin, veins and arteries are all replaceable.

Demonstrating and honing venipuncture skills

Chiofalo says students can demonstrate their venipuncture skills during job interviews by using the device. It's also ideal for distance education programs, because some medical offices don't allow students to draw blood on patients due to insurance parameters. In such instances, the Venatech works as a suitable substitute for real patients. The device also allows students to practice during remote labs and externships.

The flexibility of the Venatech IV Trainer tool makes it useful for a wide range of training applications -- such as emergency medical service personnel working on patients in moving vehicles. It also enables students to hone their soft skills by being able to communicate and engage with a live subject in a realistic way as opposed to a table model. "Students can practice the skill while speaking with patients at the same time, which allows them to treat the whole patient -- not just the arm," says Chiofalo, who notes that all students at Allied Health Institute are required to use the Venatech IV Trainer when learning phlebotomy.

Chiofalo says talking to patients will help to put them at ease and lighten up the situation. "Ask about their morning or afternoon," she says. "Explain the procedure to the patient."

For students who will be giving injections in their health care job, injection simulators are also available.

Chiofalo, who has worked as an instructor for the school, says the best advice she can offer to students to overcome this fear is to believe in themselves. "It's all about being confident that you can do it," says Chiofalo.

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