Like other areas of clinical laboratory operations, phlebotomy must perform flawlessly. That’s particularly true because phlebotomy is often the only point of contact a patient has with the laboratory. Phlebotomy has its own complexities which often take a dedicated phlebotomist years to master. That’s why a clever new invention may be of interest to clinical laboratory managers and phlebotomists everywhere.

The invention is called the order of draw bracelet. These bracelets are created with brightly colored beads to remind phlebotomists of the appropriate order of draw for Vacutainer/Syringe draws. The beads come in a variety of types and sizes, and the bracelets are appropriate for both women and men.

Pam VandeDrink, a Phelbotomist for Laboratory Corporation of America, came up with the idea for order of draw bracelets when she was a student at Boston Reed College in Napa, CA. She witnessed a little girl beading pipe cleaners and plastic beads to match the order of draw colors in her textbook. “At the time, I was trying to use a color story that I had taught myself as a memory device for the order of draw colors,” said VandeDrink. “The bracelet became a much faster, easier, and more visible way for me to remember.”

In manufacturing the order of draw bracelets, VandeDrink keeps the materials she uses modest so that the cost of the bracelets is low. That’s because students and newly-trained phlebotomists often do not have much money coming out of school. However, VandeDrink plans to launch a “fancier” version of the bracelet for more established phlebotomists in the future.

Order of draw bracelets are becoming popular with phlebotomy instructors, who purchase them as graduation gifts for their students. Fletcher Allen Health Center in Burlington, VT “bought the order of draw bracelets for our team of 44 phlebotomy staff, both inpatient and outpatient,” according to Lynn Bryan of Fletcher Allen. “We partner in training students from the University of Vermont Laboratory Sciences program and the bracelets really help as a visual aid for the students.”

Dark Daily wanted to recognize VandeDrink for her invention and her entrepreneurial spirit. VandeDrink’s order of draw bracelet is the kind of low-tech, high value idea that simplifies a complex process and improves quality of care. Clinical laboratories are always looking for solutions and opportunities to improve quality and benefit patients. Order of draw bracelets are certainly a cost-effective solution to the further reduction of phlebotomy errors. It’s not surprising that labs like Fletcher Allen are making them available to their entire phlebotomy staff.

PS: Dark Daily is always interested in the clever management ideas and inventions that generate great benefit in clinical laboratory operations. Feel free to contact us with your laboratory’s innovations and successes.

PPS: One hospital which has achieved a zero error rate for patient identification with lab-managed phlebotomists is Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, IL. Marilyn Nelson, Director of Laboratories at Ingalls, will be at the Executive War College on May 10-11 to share how this was achieved, using a tightly-integrated informatics system that cues phlebotomists at the time of the draw, then guides the specimens directly into the lab and onto the analyzers. Full details on Nelson’s presentation can be found at http://www.executivewarcollege.com/agenda.htm.