How to Fill a Syringe from a Vial

Nursing Knowledge

How to Fill a Syringe from a Vial

Drawing up medication from a vial into a syringe is a fundamental nursing skill, critical for accurate and safe administration of liquid drugs. This process involves a sterile technique to prevent contamination, the correct calculation of the desired dosage, and following precise steps to transfer the medication without compromising its integrity.
Last updated: December 4, 2023

Table of contents

How to fill a syringe from a vial 


  1. Review medication order
  2. Assemble supplies, ensuring that you have the appropriate needle type and syringe size for the medication, dose, and route of injection
  3. Perform hand hygiene and don gloves if desired or needed based on medication type
  4. Remove cap, clean vial top by vigorously scrubbing with alcohol swab
  5. Remove syringe/needle from packaging; uncap needle
  6. Draw air into syringe, equal to volume of drug ordered
  7. Insert needle into vial, being careful to avoid sticking yourself or contaminating needle tip on surrounding surfaces
  8. Inject air into vial
  9. Invert the medication vial and pull plunger back to draw medication into syringe
  10. Draw up slightly more medication than needed while maintaining needle inside medication vial
  11. Review syringe for air bubbles; tap until air bubbles collect at top of syringe
  12. Slowly press plunger, injecting excess medication and any air bubbles present back into the vial until arriving at the ordered dose marker on syringe
  13. Remove needle from vial
  14. Recap needle using one-handed scoop method

One-handed scoop method for recapping an injection needle

  1. Place cap on table
  2. Hold syringe in one hand and place needle inside cap, while being careful not to contaminate the needle by touching table or other non-sterile surface
  3. Scoop cap onto needle while lifting syringe into a vertical position
  4. With your free hand, carefully grasp the sides of the cap, below the level of the needle tip, and click cap into place to securely cover needle

How to read a syringe

Reading a syringe correctly is crucial for accurate medication dosage. Here’s how to read a syringe accurately:

  1. Identify the type of syringe (scale depends on type): insulin, tuberculin, standard
  2. Check the unit measurements along the side of the syringe and compare to the dosage information: determine if measured in mL, cc, units – for insulin dosage
  3. Determine dose needed by looking for the corresponding marking on the syringe; calculate, if necessary. 
  4. Hold the syringe at eye level when drawing the medication to see the level of the liquid against the markings accurately.
  5. The liquid will form a curve in the syringe, known as the meniscus. Read the measurement at the lowest point of the meniscus (the bottom of the curve) to get the correct dose.
  6. Make sure the top ring of the plunger is exactly on the line for your dose, not the bottom edge or somewhere in the middle.
  7. Especially with high-alert or very precise medications, have another healthcare professional double-check the dosage.


How to Fill a Syringe from a Vial

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