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Getting Your Blood Drawn: What You Need to Know

Nov 20, 2018
By Kathleen Reutter
Blood Draw

Updated November 20, 2018.

Your provider just ordered blood work and you’re gearing up to get it done. Here’s what you should know ahead of time to ensure a comfortable and easy draw.

Before Your Blood Test

Your provider should let you know whether you need to fast prior to having your blood drawn. If you’re not sure, confirm any requirements with your provider beforehand.

Fast Smartly

Fasting for a blood test entails avoiding all food and beverages (except for water) for 8 to 12 hours prior to the test. Drink plenty of water and take your medications as usual. Note that a small number of tests have stricter requirements, such as the H. pylori breath test, which involves consuming nothing, including water, for one hour prior to the test.

Tip: Come prepared with snacks. If you’re fasting, head to the lab early in the morning and bring a healthy snack to eat following the test.

Drink Water

Many people believe they should avoid water before a blood draw, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Drinking water will not only make you feel better if you’re fasting, it will also make for a smoother blood draw. Blood is about 50 percent water, so the more water you drink, the plumper your veins become and the easier it is for the phlebotomist–the technician trained to draw your blood–to locate your veins and remove blood.

Urine tests are frequently ordered along with blood tests, and the fuller your bladder, the easier it will be for you to provide a sample. (Note: The urine test for chlamydia and gonorrhea requires that you not urinate for one hour prior to the test.)

Tip: Get a head start on hydration. Drink extra water beginning the day before your blood draw to ensure you’re adequately hydrated the day of the draw.

Insurance Coverage

Having an unusual test done and wondering whether your insurance will cover it? We recommend calling your insurance to find out. If you have questions about how to do that, our staff can assist you. If you don’t have insurance or discover that your insurance will not cover the cost of a test, let us know so we can discuss payment options with you. Some of the labs we work with provide considerable discounts if you pay upfront at the time of service.

Make Sure You Have a Lab Order

You’ll need a lab order from your provider in order to have your blood drawn. If you’re not sure whether you have an order on-file, call our office and we’ll take a look. If you’d like your provider to order blood work, we recommend booking an appointment so you can discuss your concerns and come up with a set of tests tailored to you.

What to Expect During the Draw

No one looks forward to getting their blood drawn, but the procedure is usually brief and uneventful. Most people are in and out of the lab room in under 15 minutes. The phlebotomist will begin by gently pressing his or her fingers against your skin to locate the best vein. Then he or she will don gloves, clean the area with an alcohol pad, tie a tourniquet around your upper arm to increase blood flow, ask you to make a fist, and insert the needle.

Tip: Chatting helps. One Medical phlebotomists make a point of engaging you in conversation to help you relax so that the needle prick is a little less painful. Chat up your phlebotomist and distract yourself from the draw!

Shy Veins

Our phlebotomists are skilled at drawing blood from a variety of patients. Some veins are trickier to draw from than others. To coax out a shy vein, the phlebotomist might tighten the tourniquet, spend additional time palpating your veins, or place a warm pad against your skin. Taking the time upfront to locate the best vein is time well spent. A phlebotomist’s goal is to draw your blood as easily and painlessly as possible–and only once! If the phlebotomist is not successful after two sticks, he or she may recommend that you come back another day.

Tip: Know your limits. If you’ve fainted in the past or have a phobia of needles, let the phlebotomist know right away. They can position you so you’re less likely to faint, keep their needles out of your line of sight, or use the right words to soothe you during the draw.

After Your Blood Test

Bruising Is Normal

After the blood draw is completed, your phlebotomist will remove the needle, hold gauze against the puncture site, and ask you to apply pressure. Applying pressure directly following a blood draw mitigates the common side effect of bruising.

Even with these precautions, minor bruising and swelling around the puncture site can occur. Because every person’s veins are different, and veins move frequently, bruising can occur even with the most experienced phlebotomists. If you do bruise, it should go away within a few days.

Getting Your Results

At One Medical, your blood samples are sent to an outside laboratory that’s in network with your insurance. Once the lab processes the samples and sends us the results, a provider will email you with an interpretation of the results as well as a file of the results for your reference. If it’s been more than ten days since your blood draw and you haven’t received an email, call our office.

Blood Test FAQs

Do I need to get yearly blood tests?

Only if it makes sense based on your health history. At One Medical, we don’t order a standardized set of tests for every patient. Instead, providers test only for select concerns based on your symptoms, personal and family history, and risk factors. Testing only for specific concerns rather than ordering every test under the sun helps ensures that you won’t end up receiving potentially harmful treatments for diseases you don’t have. It should also help keep your health care costs lower.

If you’ve developed new symptoms, have experienced significant lifestyle changes, or are interested in getting a particular test done for any reason, book an appointment with your provider so you can discuss it together and determine whether a blood test is the best course of action.

Where do I go for a blood draw?

One Medical Group provides on-site lab services on a walk-in basis at the majority of our offices across the country. This means that you can have your blood drawn directly following a visit, or at your convenience throughout the week. Our lab hours vary by location, so check our website or call ahead to ensure the lab is open when you plan on arriving.

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Kathleen Reutter

As a registered nurse on One Medical’s Virtual Medical Team, Kathleen provides care for patients when they are away from our offices, over the phone and via email. She enjoys writing health-related content for patients in her spare time. Kathleen graduated from the University of California, San Francisco and is currently a student in UCSF’s nurse-midwifery and women’s health nurse practitioner program.

The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, a national, modern primary care practice pairing 24/7 virtual care services with inviting and convenient in-person care at over 100 locations across the U.S. One Medical is on a mission to transform health care for all through a human-centered, technology-powered approach to caring for people at every stage of life.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. 1Life Healthcare, Inc. and the One Medical entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.