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  • Writer's pictureJoshua S. Farquharson

Reading Syringes: Simple Techniques and Practice Activities to Improve Your Skills Quickly

Audience: Healthcare Students | Level: Beginner

healthcare worker holding a medication-filled syringe.

Introduction

Are you wondering how to read a syringe accurately? Do you need help understanding the small lines and numbers on a syringe? This comprehensive guide is designed just for you. We'll simplify the process and help you master the skill of reading syringes to determine the correct amount of medication.


Why Syringe-Reading Skills Matter

Understanding how to read syringes is essential for providing quality patient care. This guide will teach you how to interpret graduation marks on 1 cc/mL, 3 cc/mL, 5 cc/mL, and U-100 syringes. By the end of this guide, you'll feel confident reading values on syringes of any size.


What You’ll Learn

Here are the new skills you’ll gain after completing this guide:

  • Syringe Essentials: Discover the various parts of a syringe and their functions.

  • A Three-Step Process for Reading Syringes: Learn a straightforward method to identify increments on different types of syringes.

  • Reading Different Types of Syringes: Gain confidence in determining the amount of medication in U-100, 1 mL, 3 mL, and 5 mL syringes.

Tips for Successfully Completing this Guide


  • Have a pencil and paper: Jot things down quickly if needed.

  • Find a quiet place: Free from distractions and turn off device notifications.

  • Take breaks: After each lesson, take a five-minute break. Stretch or walk to give your eyes a break from the screen.

  • Use a desktop computer or large display device: Access the content on a desktop or large display for the best experience.


Remember, go at your own pace and build your skills with the activities. Practice as often as necessary to master the skills. You are going to do great!


 

Syringe Essentials


Identifying Parts of a Syringe

First, let’s look at the parts of the syringe: the tip, barrel, flanges, plunger, and stopper.


Review the Parts of the Syringe

Instructions: Select the navigation arrows to review each slide in the interaction.



 

Understanding Syringe Barrel Units

Syringes often display units of measurement on the barrel, such as milliliters (mL), cubic centimeters (cc), or units. Remember, 1 cc is equivalent to 1 mL.


Barrel Units Example

Here's an example highlighting the units - cc and mL - as equivalents on the syringe's barrel. Tip: Since 1 mL = 1 cc, this 5 mL syringe is also a 5 cc syringe.


syringe barrel showing ml and cc equivalents
 


A Three-Step Process for Reading Syringes

Depending on the type of syringe and manufacturer design, some syringes provide more information than others (e.g., visible numbers). As such, you must be able to identify the increments of the marks (amount or degree by which the marks increase) and determine the value (numerical quantity) of each mark.


Follow these three steps to determine the value of each mark on the barrel.

  1. Determine the increment of the visible numbers.

  2. Count the number of steps between the visible numbers.

  3. Divide the increment value by the number of steps.


 

Reading Different Types of Syringes

Depending on the type of syringe and manufacturer design, some syringes provide more information than others (e.g., visible numbers). As such, you must be able to identify the increments of the marks (amount or degree by which the marks increase) and determine the value (numerical quantity) of each mark.


5 mL Syringe

Let's review how to apply the three steps to reading a 5 mL syringe.


How to Read a 5 mL Syringe

Instructions: Select the navigation arrows to review each slide in the interaction.




 

5 mL Syringe with Medication Example

Here is an example of a 5 mL syringe containing 1.2 mL of medication. Notice that the position of the stopper's top ring indicates the amount of medication in the syringe.


A 5 mL syringe containing 1.2 mL of medication.
 

Practice Activity: Reading a 5 mL Syringe

Instructions: Use the interaction below to practice reading 5 mL syringes. Type your answer in space provided and select SUBMIT.




 

3 mL Syringe

Let's review how to apply the three steps to reading a 3 mL syringe.


How to Read a 3 mL Syringe

Instructions: Select the navigation arrows to review each slide in the interaction.




 

3 mL Syringe with Medication Example

Here is an example of a 3 mL syringe containing 1.1 mL of medication. Notice that the position of the stopper's top ring indicates the amount of medication in the syringe.


A 3 mL syringe containing 1.1 mL of medication
 

Practice Activity: Reading a 3 mL Syringe

Instructions: Use the interaction below to practice reading 3 mL syringes. Type your answer in space provided and select SUBMIT.



 


1 mL Syringe

Let's review how to apply the three steps to reading a 1 mL syringe.


How to Read a 1 mL Syringe

Instructions: Select the navigation arrows to review each slide in the interaction.




 

1 mL Syringe with Medication Example

Here is an example of a 1 mL syringe containing 0.22 mL of medication. Notice that the position of the stopper's top ring indicates the amount of medication in the syringe.


Important: Always include the zero before the decimal in your final answer. For example, .22 mL is not the correct way to document the measurement represented in the image below. The correct answer is 0.22 mL

A 1 mL syringe containing 0.22 mL of medication
 

Practice Activity: Reading a 1 mL Syringe

Instructions: Use the interaction below to practice reading 1 mL syringes. Type your answer in space provided and select SUBMIT.



 

100 Unit (U-100) Syringe

Let's review how to apply the three steps to reading a 100 Unit syringe.


How to Read a U-100 Syringe

Instructions: Select the navigation arrows to review each slide in the interaction.




 

U-100 Syringe with Medication Example

Below is an example of a 100 Unit syringe containing 12 units of medication. Notice that the position of the stopper's top ring indicates the amount of medication in the syringe.


A 100 Unit syringe containing 12 units of medication
 

Practice Activity: Reading a U-100 Syringe

Instructions: Use the interaction below to practice reading U-100 syringes. Type your answer in space provided and select SUBMIT.



 


Bonus Activity: Draw 8 Game

The Draw 8 mini-game is a fun way to confirm your ability to read syringes of various sizes. Play Draw 8 to practice your skills!


Instructions: Select PLAY to begin.



 

Skills Assessment for Reading Syringes

Now you're ready to test your skills! Be confident. You're going to do great!


Instructions: Complete each question and select SUBMIT to confirm your answer.



 

Congratulations!

You've completed this guide. By following this guide, you've learned how to read syringes accurately. Thank you for participating!

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