Venipuncture (VEN-uh-punk-shur) is the process of putting a needle in a vein. This is done to take a blood sample or put in a tube to give medicine, fluids, or blood products. If the tube stays in, it is called an IV. Putting in the needle is called a “stick.” Venipuncture is usually done by a nurse, but a physician assistant, diagnostic imaging technologist, or doctor can also do it.
Your child might need an IV if a central line is not in place. If your child does have a central line, an IV might be needed to get more medicine, fluids, or blood products. Or one might be needed for lab tests.
Preparing your child for venipuncture
We know getting a stick can hurt. The staff can do some things to try to make your child more comfortable. These can include:
- Making sure a family member is with your child, if helpful or requested by the child,
- Using comfort positions or distraction techniques, and
- Putting medicine on the skin to make it numb.
A staff member might also hold your child to keep the child safe during the stick. You can also ask a nursing coordinator to help or talk with you.
Making the vein easier to see
To make the stick easier and quicker, the nurse can do some things to make your child’s vein easier to see:
- Place your child’s arm, hand, or other area for the stick lower than the heart.
- Use a tourniquet.
- Wipe the area with alcohol. This makes it easier to see the vein.
- Use heat, such as a warm compress.
- Ask your child to make a fist,
- Give extra fluids, only if your child is allowed to drink.
- Use a small device called a vein finder.
The best option depends on your child. Every child is different. One option might work well for your child. Another child might do better with a different option.
Putting the needle in the vein
An IV usually goes in the arm, hand, or foot. But, it can go in another vein if needed. The staff member will try to put the needle in your child’s vein on the first try. But sometimes it takes more than one (1) try. You might even see the nurse moving the needle around under the skin a little after it is inserted. This is done because the vein often moves slightly, and the needle needs to be repositioned when this happens. We know this is hard for you and your child. Like you, we want to place the IV in the easiest and least painful way possible.
It is harder to put a needle in some people’s veins. These veins are often called “hard to stick.”
If your child has been stuck several times in one (1) spot, the nurse might not be able to stick that spot again. If your child has been stuck many times, the nurse needs to find a spot that has not been stuck yet. These new spots might be hard to stick.
Please let us know if you think your child has hard to stick veins, has been stuck recently, or sometimes has problems. Every nurse can put in an IV. But, some have more training and experience with hard to stick veins.
When it takes more than one (1) try
Sometimes a vein is hard to stick even if your child had no problems before. The nurse might need to try more than one time or call someone else to help. We know this can be upsetting for you and your child. We will try everything we can to make it as comfortable as possible.
If the nurse cannot put in an IV, your child might get needed medicines by mouth. The nurse might also give them in a single injection (shot). Your child’s doctor will decide what is best.
If you have questions about venipuncture, ask your child’s doctor or nurse. If your child goes home with an IV, you can call your child’s primary clinic with questions or concerns.
This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.
St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.
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