Drawing Blood With Robots

Drawing Blood With Robots

Drawing Blood With Robots

Drawing Blood With Robots

Blood tests are one of the most common diagnostic procedures in the world. Checking cholesterol levels for a routine physical? Blood test. Checking blood cell count for a suspected infection? Blood test. Diagnose a disease, check organ function, determine blood type—blood test, blood test, blood test.

But for a procedure that’s so common and repetitive, the time cost of drawing and analyzing a blood sample can sometimes be subpar. Many times, doctors are unable to draw the blood samples themselves and must rely on phlebotomists, who then themselves have to rely on labs to analyze the results. The findings are valuable, of course, but the multi-step process can sometimes eat valuable time.

And let’s not forget the many styles and techniques necessary to successfully “stick” a patient without mess, drama, or contaminating the sample. We covered the topic in this recent post.

Enter the Rutgers University Blood Testing Robot.

Robots, by design, exist to take over repetitive tasks. Most commonly, those tasks exist within the manufacturing realm, but more and more, tasks within the world of medicine are falling to the machines (we also explored a few of those machines in this post).

But the Rutgers University Blood Testing Robot takes automation to a new level. Not only does it take over the task of drawing a blood sample, but it analyses the sample as well—saving doctors and nurses valuable time.

“This device represents the holy grail in blood testing technology,” says Martin L. Yarmush, the study’s senior author. “Integrating miniaturized robotic and microfluidic (lab-on-a-chip) systems, this technology combines the breadth and accuracy of traditional blood drawing and laboratory testing with the speed and convenience of point-of-care testing.”

The robot itself consists of three parts. The first part (the venipuncture arm) draws the blood sample by scanning the patient’s arm and creating a 3D model of the arm veins. After the needle is inserted, the second part of the machine obtains and protects the blood sample, delivering it to the third part—a built in centrifuge that analyzes the blood.

“In the U.S., for example, blood tests are performed 2 billion times each year and influence 80 percent of medical decisions made in hospital and primary care settings. However, blood draw success rates depend heavily on practitioner skill and patient physiology,” explains Dr Max Balter, one of the lead researchers. “By reducing turnaround times, the device has the capacity to expedite hospital workflow, allowing practitioners to devote more time to treating patients.”

So far, the machine has performed with 100% accuracy—a very impressive performance. And even the size is convenient. The prototype easily fits on a table, resembling the automatic blood pressure machines you see at local pharmacies.

Currently, the machine performs a “three-part white blood cell differential and hemoglobin measurement”, but developers hope to expand the available tests in the near future.

As far as nurses are concerned, however, there’s no fear of a robot replacing them any time soon. But a robot making a nurse’s job easier? That’s looking more and more likely by the day.

For more information on beginning a career in the exciting and rapidly changing world of nursing, contact Unitek College today.

Hero Nurse Breaks Down Barriers In Japan

Hero Nurse Breaks Down Barriers In Japan

Hero Nurse Breaks Down Barriers In Japan

Hero Nurse Breaks Down Barriers In Japan

If there’s one thing everyone quickly learns about nurses, it’s that no one or nothing should ever stand between them and helping their patient—even if that nothing is a two-thousand-year-old cultural tradition.

Sumo wrestling is a sport practiced only in Japan, and its historical roots stretch back to the BCE years. While the rules of the game have changed throughout the millennia, at its core, sumo wrestling has remained very true to its origins… even when those origins clash with the more progressive thinking of the present.

Almost as much a ritual as it is a sport, one very strict rule of sumo wrestling throughout its history has been a zero tolerance ban on women in the sumo ring. If a woman does enter the sacred space (called a “dohyo”) the ring is considered “ritually unclean”.

But when the ban on women came between one Japanese nurse and a man suffering from a stroke, she didn’t think twice. She entered the ring, and that bold move is still making waves in Japanese culture.

As Ryoto Tatami, mayor of Maizuru city in northern Kyoto, was delivering a speech before a sumo match, the 67-year old man suddenly collapsed in the ring. It was later determined to be a stroke, but for the female nurse watching from the crowd, the cause nor the setting mattered. She saw a man who needed help, and she charged into the ring to do so.

Her actions shocked the sumo judges, who began demanding over the PA system that she leave the ring immediately, repeating over and over the traditional ban on women in the ring. But the nurse (whose name has not yet been released) continued to work. Soon, other women began rushing into the ring to help, emboldened by the nurse’s example.

Thanks to her actions, Mayor Tatami survived the stroke, and nearly two months later was able to return to work.

“Even though sumo has a long history and traditions, its female ban policy is irrelevant today,” Tatami told a news conference on his first day back at work. “At least in situations requiring first aid, male or female should not matter. Anyone should be allowed to help out.”

The head of the sumo association also apologized for the incident, though the ban on females has not yet been officially lifted.

Still, the brave and selfless act of one nurse continues to make headlines today, two months after the mayor’s stroke, and could very well be a significant influencer in future cultural shifts in Japan.

If you are ever in a situation where you suspect a person may be having a stroke, the Mayo Clinic reminds first responders to assess the situation using the FAST acronym.

  • Face.Does the face droop on one side when the person tries to smile?
  • Arms.Is one arm lower when the person tries to raise both arms?
  • Speech.Can the person repeat a simple sentence? Is speech slurred or hard to understand?
  • Time.During a stroke every minute counts. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

 If you are interested in beginning your own career as a nurse, contact Unitek College today for information on our many nursing and medical assistant programs.

Stick Like A Pro: Tips For Mastering The Art Of Venipuncture

Stick Like A Pro: Tips For Mastering The Art Of Venipuncture

Stick Like A Pro: Tips For Mastering The Art Of Venipuncture

Stick Like A Pro: Tips For Mastering The Art Of Venipuncture

Taking a blood sample or starting an IV usually isn’t the highlight of a medical worker’s day… and it’s definitely not a favorite moment for the patient, especially if multiple sticks or other complications are involved. But phlebotomy and venipuncture are necessary, and mastering them can make the experience better for both patient and lab tech.

For starters? Remember that there’s no such thing as normal when it comes to sticking a vein.

“Anybody who expects just routine draws is quickly disappointed,” says Dennis Ernst, director of the Center for Phlebotomy Education in Corydon, Ind. “Because you have five or six categories of patients who present challenges—and you never know who’s going to walk in the door.”

The best rules to remember, of course, are the ones you learned in your medical training, and you should always defer to those techniques or to your administration for proper procedure. But here are a few tips and tricks that can help keep the sample process “flowing smoothly”.

Take A Deep Breath – Not you (though you can if you’d like), but the patient. By asking the patient to take a deep breath just before the stick, it both keeps them occupied and keeps them distracted. Being given something to do helps a person feel more in control of the situation—and this works as the needle is being removed, also.

Anchors Away – Stretching the skin by “anchoring” the vein doesn’t just help you stick the vein on the first try, it also helps make the stick less painful. Remember, your thumb goes below the venipuncture site, and give yourself plenty of room so you don’t accidentally jab your own fingers.

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings – Finding the vein and choosing your venipuncture site is perhaps the most difficult part of phlebotomy, especially if your patient’s veins are small, fragile, or non-elastic, and much of selecting the vein comes down to feeling. Not gut feeling, literal feeling.

There’s an old joke about how the first thing lab nurses notice when meeting a new person is how good their arms veins are, and that joke isn’t far from reality. Some patients are gifts from the gods, with veins thick and visible. But others are more of a challenge.

To that end, feeling for the vein (not slapping, despite what you see in movies) will always be the most reliable approach. Palpate for that “spongy firmness”, and feel above and below your target area for a better idea of direction.

The Invisible Vein  – Still can’t find a place to stick? Dr. Jabr of Florence, Oregon suggests “to obviate the need for multiple inconvenient and painful attempts at securing the needle, apply a warm pad to the target vein for a few minutes. This helps dilate the vein and makes it more visible and accessible.”

Another trick (from the venipuncture site AimVein.com) is to bend the arm upward if the veins are hiding. This sometimes makes them easier to spot.

Less Than Thirty – You’ve probably heard this a hundred times in your nurses training, but it never hurts to hear again. The World Health Organization guidelines suggest keeping the angle of insertion at 30 degrees or less (15 is ideal) to avoid passing through the vein.

Label Immediately – There’s nothing worse than getting a great stick, drawing a great sample, then forgetting to label it right away. Actually, there is something worse… and that’s mixing up samples because they weren’t labeled at the bedside. For your sake and the patient’s sake, label all sample immediately, even if things are going a mile a minute.

Know When To Quit – Just can’t get that blood sample? Veins just aren’t cooperating? Considering a third or fourth attempt? Here’s something else to consider—getting help. Don’t think of it as failure or defeat, think of it as making the best decision for your patient. Getting a fresh set of eyes on the situation might be all that’s needed to finally draw a good sample, and knowing when to seek help is the mark of a pro.

There’s A Body Attached To That Arm – At the end of the day, though, everything really comes down to how safe and peaceful you make your patient feel. So treat each and every one as if they were a friend or relative, and remember that just because you see needles and blood samples many times a day, this is a fairly rare experience for them. They will often be nervous. Some may faint. Some may be nervous because they’re afraid they’ll faint. It’s up to you to coach them through it and make the experience as positive as possible. The better it goes, the better the chances of that person seeking medical attention in the future, and that’s always a great takeaway.

“Compassion is not antiquated,” writes Dr Larry Dossey. “It remains a crucial factor in healing and will never go out of style. It is always available for any healthcare professional who is wise enough to claim it.”

Interested in beginning your own career as a nurse or medical assistant? Unitek College can help! Contact us today for more information on our many available programs.

Spotlight Continues To Shine On Nurse Heroes

Spotlight Continues To Shine On Nurse Heroes

Spotlight Continues To Shine On Nurse Heroes

Spotlight Continues To Shine On Nurse Heroes

Of all the careers in the United States, few garner as much universal praise and respect as nursing. When people see scrubs, or learn that a new acquaintance works in nursing, there’s a look that says both “I respect what you do” and “I wish I could also do what you do”. And in the past few weeks, that respect and praise has hit new levels, as the spotlight has shone on several amazing stories.

Probably the most popular story of the past few weeks involves nurse Michael Ketterer, who first impressed the country with what he does inside hospital halls, then blew the country away with what he could do outside those halls.

Ketterer, a pediatric nurse in Orange County, showed up on the stage of America’s Got Talent. When he shared his career, they applauded. When he revealed that he’s taken in six foster children, they were astonished at his heart and selflessness. And when he sang, they rose to their feet, culminating in the rare Golden Buzzer from judge Simon Cowell.

You can see the performance here, but we’re warning you… keep the tissues handy.

Across the country in Boston, another group of nurses were also taking a bow—not from a stage, but from the center of Fenway Park. Despite heavy rain and tornado warnings, over 4,000 nurses and fans showed up to the park for Red Sox Nurse Appreciation Night, an attendance that even beat the popular Star Wars night at the park.

At the center of the large crowd of nurses, ten were recognized for outstanding achievements in their field. The nurses ranged from a former Army medic, to a pediatric burn unit nurse, to a nurse who saved a life at his gym.

Retired nurse Kathy Shubitowski even sang the National Anthem. Her daughter posted a video here.

You can read about each of them here.

Other nurses in the spotlight include nurse Lori Wood of Aultman Hospital, who received the Heartsaver Hero Award for saving a man’s life with CPR. Nurse Wood was feeding the ducks in the park with her grandchild when she witnessed a nearby man go into full cardiac arrest. Using Hands-Only CPR, she was able to keep the man alive until help arrived.

Similarly, nurse Amy Somwaru of the Munroe Regional Medical Center also stepped up when a man was found unresponsive in his car—also the victim of a heart attack. Her help, along with a local deputy’s, saved the man’s life—a man who turned out to be the husband of another nurse in a neighboring medical center.

Other notable nurses honored this week include nurse Effie Farnham, who recently retired after fifty years as an emergency room nurse. And then there’s the late Nurse Lini Puthussery, a woman to whom the World Health Organization paid homage this month after she died battling the Nipah virum in northern Kerala (the Nipah virus, transmitted by fruit bats, has a mortality rate of nearly 70%).

Of all these spotlights, one thing is clear: the impact of nurses around the country and around the world is indispensable, and nothing makes us happier than to see that recognized.

Interested in pursuing your own career as a nurse? Contact Unitek College today to find out how!

Officers Rally Behind Nurse Battling Cancer

Officers Rally Behind Nurse Battling Cancer

One of the greatest benefits of a life spent helping others is that when you run into trouble, you almost always have a support team already assembled. Such was the case for Hernando County nurse Debra Dolby, who found a source of strength in her uniformed co-workers.

Officers Rally Behind Nurse Battling Cancer

Officers Rally Behind Nurse Battling Cancer

A nurse at the Hernando County detention center since 2006 (and a member of the Navy and Marine Corps before that), Nurse Dolby has worked side by side with county deputies for over a decade. So last year when Debra was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer, her co-workers quickly found ways to help… and one of those ways is now getting national attention.

“She’s just a fun person that gets down to business and calls them like she sees them,” Programs Deputy William Ingersoll said, a perspective most of her co-workers share. So when cancer treatment cost Debra her hair, staging a demonstration of support was a “no brainer”.

Many of the deputies already sported shaved heads (or were bald naturally), and the ones who weren’t quickly grabbed a razor and shaved. Soon, Debra was surrounded by a smiling pack of bald-headed friends, all smiling for a photo that now serves as motivation for her.

“It’s how you get your strength and your courage, and this is a badge of courage, ” Nurse Dolby said of the support she’s found in her team. “Being bald is hard for a woman, not hard for a man, but it’s how you get your power.”

“We wanted to demonstrate that we’re part of the same team, part of the same unit, and we wanted to show a little solidarity,” Classification Sgt. Dan Carriveau said of Nurse Dolby.

And ever the helper herself, Debra is already looking for ways that her battle today can help someone tomorrow.

“There’s a lot of diseases that people need motivation for, and if I can give them just a little bit, share my story, then I’m happy,” she said.

If you’d like to see the photo (and other support from the Hernando County deputies), you can see it on their Facebook page here.

As of today, Debra’s doctors have given her a 40% chance of beating the disease, a number Debra refuses to take negatively.

“I said what’s my chances of surviving this? He said 40% and I said who says I’m not in the 40%, ” she said, adding that her motivation for survival isn’t for her sake… it’s for the sake of those who depend on her. “They need me so it’s not about me. It’s about them.”

We love stories of nurses who change lives through their dedication, passion, and skill—nurses such as Evelyn Sotomayor, whose unrelenting care helped save a patient and inspired her to become a doctor herself. But just as much, we love stories of a community that recognizes the value of the nurses who help them, and who come together when it’s the nurse who needs help.

If you’d like to explore your own options in the world of nursing, Unitek College is here to help. Contact us here for more information.

Memorial Day 2018: Nurses On The Front Lines

Memorial Day 2018: Nurses On The Front Lines

Memorial Day 2018: Nurses On The Front Lines

Memorial Day 2018: Nurses On The Front Lines

This past weekend, the nation paused to honor the military men and women who died in the line of duty. And we’d like to continue that theme of remembrance this week by focusing on some of the heroes in scrubs who also served on those front lines. These were the nurses who carried bandages in place of rifles, yet still put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of their country and their brothers and sisters in arms.

Here are a few of their stories.

Colonel Ruby Bradley

Colonel Bradley was already a military nurse when America entered World War II and was based in the Philippines when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Soon, the Japanese army was sweeping through the islands, and Nurse Bradley, another nurse, and a doctor hid in the hills after their base was evacuated. Unfortunately, the three were betrayed by two of the locals, and Nurse Bradley soon found herself a captive in a Japanese POW camp.

But rather than allowing this to end her story, Nurse Bradley chose this moment as the beginning. She began treating prisoners with any useful medicine or instrument she could get her hands on, earning her the nickname “Angel in Fatigues”. In a short time, Bradley set up a small pharmacy, a clinic, and a smuggling operation by which she and a doctor brought morphine and other medicines into camp.

In the 37 months that Bradley was a captive, she performed over 230 major operations and delivered 13 babies, all while using anything and everything on hand as instruments.

“Three days after [smuggling morphine into camp], we had an appendectomy,” Nurse Bradley recalled during a 1983 interview. “The Japanese thought it was wonderful that we could do all this without any instruments.”

Nurse Bradley was eventually rescued, but her story didn’t end there. She went on to serve as a combat medic in the Korean War, eventually becoming the Army’s most highly decorated nurse.

Lieutenant Reba Whittle

Nurse Whittle served as a flight nurse in the European theater of World War II, and like Nurse Bradley, fought her battle from behind the walls of a POW camp. When her plane was shot down over Aachen, Germany, Nurse Bradley became the only female POW in Europe during World War II. Her situation was so rare that the Germans themselves were confused as to how to treat her.

Eventually, she was allowed to attend to prisoners within the camp—falling back on her flight school nursing training where she learned to treat injury and illness in the absence of a physician. But when she wasn’t treating soldiers, she was kept in an isolated cell.

After the war ended and Nurse Whittle returned home, she began a second battle—one against the United States government for recognition as a veteran and POW. Because of her gender and the rarity of her situation, she was denied benefits and recognition, something she fought until her dying day.

It was a battle Nurse Whittle eventually won, earning recognition (posthumously) of World War II POW in 1992.

Lieutenant Elsie S. Ott

Nurse Ott was another flight nurse who served during World War II, treating evacuees as they flew from India to Washington, D.C. While this may seem run of the mill today, the use of airplanes to evacuate the wounded (and to bring in fresh troops) was considered experimental.

Nurse Ott was chosen as flight nurse for the first evacuation flight and within 24 hours was onboard, despite the fact that she had yet to board an aircraft in her life. But Nurse Ott took to the skies like a natural, treating soldiers for a wide assortment of maladies as the plane completed its six-day flight to the states.

But Nurse Ott didn’t just treat her patients during the flight. She also kept a detailed list of the endeavor, noting the equipment and changes needed to improve the process for both the injured and the medical personnel. She eventually returned to India with the 803rd Evacuation Squad, and by 1946, she had been promoted to captain.

Her bravery and commitment lead to Nurse Ott becoming the first woman to receive the U.S. Air Medal.


If you’re interested in beginning your own career in nursing, Unitek College is the place to start. Contact us today for more information.