Health Connect Story Summer 2019. Blood from the Tiniest Veins. Pamela Davidson, phlebotomist, shows Charlie how blood is drawn from patients.

Blood From the Tiniest Veins

No matter the age, special care is needed with young patients.

By Pamela Davidson, Phlebotomist

Pediatric patients present a particularly difficult challenge for clinicians responsible for drawing blood. The reality is that no matter how you phrase it, there will be at least some pain for the patient during our interaction. The parents’ anxiety is also a huge factor!

Our goal is to get a high quality sample that will provide practitioners with accurate results. When the patient can cooperate with us, it affects our ability to succeed. So when it comes to children, we utilize special techniques and supplies.


You might think getting blood from a baby would be easy. It’s not. Obtaining a venous sample from infants is tricky, because of their small veins. They are also too young to cooperate with the procedure. Furthermore, some babies are stronger than you might expect, meaning a skilled holder is just as essential as a skilled clinician. There is no substitute for a stationary target.

Toddlers, Elementary Age Kids

When it comes to toddlers and elementary age children, there is a great deal of variability in how the encounter can go. Most appreciate the variety of stickers that we dole out freely. We also have bandages of popular cartoons, animal prints and glittery patterns.

Many phlebotomists at Mary Greeley find that explaining the process at length, and allowing the patient to interact with the pieces that will be used during the procedure, can help reduce fear and anxiety. This helps with their cooperation with the actual venipuncture.

Tweens, Teens

Tweens and teens are unpredictable. Some revert to infantile behavior, while others try to show how grown up they are. Judging which type of child you have in front of you is a skill that is developed with time. In the end, the conversation the phlebotomist has with the patient can be the deciding factor on how well the interaction goes.

A Child-Friendly Environment

Pediatric décor and supplies help distract young children and make them feel more at ease. We have ceiling tiles with clownfish in our outpatient blood drawing room. Posters, stickers, adhesive bandages, bright scrub top prints, colorful tables and chairs, and many other products help make the environment child-friendly.

Parents, Guardians

Finally, parents and guardians also play an important role in the collection of blood samples from children. A cool, calm, quiet demeanor is often mimicked in young children. Likewise, a child of stressed parents is usually anxious as well.

Older children often respond to a seasoned phlebotomist’s explanation and instruction. Tweens and teens tend to be more independent of their parents, making their behavior less predictable. As they age, they usually become more cooperative and tend toward adult behavior.

Familiar Faces - Pediatric Hospitalists: Dr Laura Hufford, Dr Mara Syring and Dr Alia Thomas

Familiar Faces

Mary Greeley’s youngest patients and their families are supported by a robust Pediatric Hospitalist program.

Mary Greeley is fortunate to have three highly experienced pediatric hospitalists, who focus on providing general care to hospitalized patients.

Our pediatric hospitalists are Dr. Laura Hufford, Dr. Mara Syring and Dr. Alia Thomas. All are affiliated with McFarland Clinic.

Mary Greeley has a pediatric-focused physician in the building 24/7, which is hugely beneficial for when emergencies or changes in a patient’s condition occur. Pediatric hospitalists provide consistent practices that are up to date and evidence based. They also have connections to specialists in Des Moines and Iowa City whom they can reach by phone when unusual cases arise.

While they work primarily in Pediatrics, Birthways and our Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit, pediatric hospitalists are a great resource for other areas in the hospital, including the Emergency Department, Outpatient Surgery, Radiology, Operating Room, Home Health and our Lactation Clinic.

For patients and families admitted to Pediatrics, their pediatric hospitalist is often the same physician who cared for them on Birthways, which reduces anxiety for those parents to see a familiar face.