Proper labeling of blood samples is one of the most important parts of a phlebotomist’s job. Mislabeled blood samples can lead to misdiagnosis or the need to take additional samples from a hospital patient whose veins may have collapsed during earlier blood draws or who may no longer be present at the laboratory. If you are going to be an effective phlebotomist (and plan to stay employed for a significant period of time), it is essential that you learn to properly label blood samples and apply that knowledge rigorously in the course of your work.
The way in which blood samples are labeled can vary from one hospital or laboratory to another, and it’s important that you learn the specific procedures required of you. Nonetheless, certain procedures are commonly used throughout the health-care industry. In many cases, preprinted labels will be generated by computer and made available to you prior to the blood draw. In other cases, it will be necessary to write the name or numerical ID of the patient and the nature of the sample on the label. This information can also be placed on a requisition slip that will accompany the sample, eliminating the need to place extensive information on the small tubes that contain the blood.
Some types of blood sample tubes, especially those of the Vacutainer brand, use color-coded stoppers. These indicate the type of additive put into the blood, usually some form of anticoagulant agent, to prevent the blood from clotting before laboratory analysis can be performed. These stoppers serve as a form of sample labeling separate from the labels applied by the phlebotomist. However, it is crucial that the phlebotomist place the blood in the proper colored-coded tubes according to the types of tests that are going to be performed on the blood. The use of color-coded tubes is something that you will need to learn in the course of your training and that you will be called on to know about during your phlebotomy certification examination.