Green veins light up on CMMC patients

By: 
JENNY GESSAMAN
Reporter

CMMC Laboratory Manager Abbey Wichman uses the hand of Lead Phlebotomist Debbie Pratt to showcase the different VeinViewer modes Thursday afternoon.

Photo by Jenny Gessaman

Central Montana Medical Center is finding green veins on patients’ skin, but no one should panic. In fact, everyone at the hospital, including the patients, is pretty excited. The VeinViewer locates and then projects a person’s veins onto their skin, and its alien-green images are making IVs and blood draws more fun.

The CMMC Laboratory Department received the hand-held piece of equipment almost a month ago, according to Manager Abbey Wichman.

The device takes advantage of a blood cell’s hemoglobin protein, and its unique ability to absorb infrared light. Wichman explained VeinViewer shines an infrared LED onto the skin. It then projects the image of the infrared light, including the dark spots where blood has absorbed it, in the visible light spectrum. This results in an immediate image, on a patient’s skin, of the veins beneath.

Wichman said VeinViewer helps phlebotomists, medical professionals who assess veins and draw blood samples for testing. It’s purchase, however, was motivated by patients.

“The phlebotomists are the ones who really wanted to see something improve to assure patients and to assist [the phlebotomists] in patient care,” she said.

Part of the struggle is the stigma around needles and blood draws, according to Wichman.

“Patients, when they have a bad experience with getting their blood drawn, if they have to be stuck multiple times, they get a little gun shy every time,” she said.

The VeinViewer lowers the chance of multiple pokes, and does so in a way patients can understand, according to Wichman.

“The patients think it’s really neat,” she said. “They like seeing it in action. I’ve seen patients go, ‘Oh cool!’”

It’s not just blood draws, either. Wichman gets requests from other CMMC staff looking to start intravenous lines.

“Right now, the main thing I see it being used for is assessing veins for IV therapy in acute care,” she said. “We start a lot of IVs in acute care on difficult patients: patients with small veins, patients with veins that roll, patients with very low-integrity veins.”

Finding out if veins are small, fragile or even branching can keep hospital staff from starting an IV that could fail. That, Wichman said, means less pokes for patients, even if they have difficult veins.

“We also used it on a baby as well,” she said. “It worked great.”

It’s success had the CMMC Auxiliary delighted. The VeinViewer was purchased by the nonprofit, according to former President Patty Neeman.

“It’s one of the reasons we have all of our fundraisers,” she said. “Once a year, we put out a request to all of the hospital departments to give us a wish list.”

The Auxiliary’s focus on quality of care limits eligibility to departments with patient interactions. It also ensures any purchases will improve the patient experience.

“The Auxiliary takes such pride in being able to help their hospital and their local community,” Neeman said. “When we have to choose items, we always lean towards patient comfort and care.”

The Auxiliary’s patient priorities made the laboratory’s wish easy to grant, according to Neeman, even with the VeinViewer’s $5,000 price tag.

“For us, it was a no-brainer,” she said. “If we can take something like that off of their budget, then they can take those dollars and spend them on something else to benefit the department.”

For Wichman, the VeinViewer is a pretty great benefit by itself.

“So far, we’ve heard it does help assess whether a vein is worth sticking,” she said. “With the patients, we’ve noticed a feeling of satisfaction in knowing that vein is there: I think it’s piece of mind for them.” 

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