Drawing medicine out of a vial
Administering injections; Giving a needle; Giving insulin
To get prepared:
- Gather your supplies: medicine vial, syringe, alcohol pad, sharps container.
- Make sure you are working in a clean area.
- Wash your hands.
Check Your Medicine
Carefully check your medicine:
- Check the label. Make sure you have the right medicine.
- Check the date on the vial. Do not use medicine that is out of date.
- You may have a multi-dose vial. Or you may have a vial with powder that you mix with liquid. Read or ask about instructions if you have to mix your medicine.
- If you will use the medicine more than once, write the date on the vial so you remember when you opened it.
- Look at the medicine in the vial. Check for a change in color, small pieces floating in the liquid, cloudiness, or any other changes.
Get the Vial Ready
Prepare your medicine vial:
- If this is your first time using this medicine, take the cap off the vial.
- Wipe the rubber top clean with an alcohol pad.
Filling the Syringe With Medicine
Follow these steps to fill the syringe with medicine:
- Hold the syringe in your hand like a pencil, with the needle pointed up.
- With the cap still on, pull back the plunger to the line on your syringe for your dose. This fills the syringe with air.
- Insert the needle into the rubber top. Do not touch or bend the needle.
- Push the air into the vial. This keeps a vacuum from forming. If you put in too little air, you will find it hard to draw out the medicine. If you put in too much air, the medicine may be forced out of the syringe.
- Turn the vial upside down and hold it up in the air. Keep the needle tip in the medicine.
- Pull back the plunger to the line on your syringe for your dose. For example, if you need 1 cc of medicine, pull the plunger to the line marked 1 cc on the syringe. Note that some bottles of medicine may say mL. One cc of medicine is the same amount as one mL of medicine.
To remove air bubbles from the syringe:
- Keep the syringe tip in the medicine.
- Tap the syringe with your finger to move air bubbles to the top. Then push gently on the plunger to push the air bubbles back into the vial.
- If you have a lot of bubbles, push the plunger to push all the medicine back into the vial. Draw medicine out again slowly and tap air bubbles out. Double check that you still have the right amount of medicine drawn up.
- Remove the syringe from the vial and keep the needle clean.
- If you plan to put the syringe down, put the cover back on the needle.
Auerbach PS. Procedures. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Medicine for the Outdoors. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:444-454.
Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Gonzalez L, Aebersold M. Medication administration. In: Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Gonzalez L, Aebersold M, eds. Clinical Nursing Skills: Basic to Advanced Skills. 9th ed. New York, NY: Pearson; 2016:chap 18.
Last reviewed on: 1/29/2022
Reviewed by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.