Friday, May 14, 2010

Purple Cows of the Medical Industry

I’d Hate to be a Phlebotomist

I hate needles. Even when I was doped up on morphine after the accident, the blood-drawing needles hurt.

Today I had to get more blood drawn as part of pre-op to get the metal out of my shoulder so I can wear a backpack again without pain.

This clinic was unusual. I was ushered into a room, given a comfortable chair, and told to sit there while people came to me. There was the nurse practitioner who was a whiz with the computer and managed to print out my x-ray so I wouldn’t have to get another one.

She measured my blood pressure which is usually about 115 / 65. I was dreading that needle, so it was 144 / 90. She didn’t worry. She’s seen people who are afraid of needles before. She assured me that the people who draw blood at this clinic do it all day long and they are good at it. Somehow, I did not find this reassuring.

There was the anesthetist who admired my biking helmet, and asked what they cost. Then she told me that muscle-chicks like me need more anesthetic than normal women. It’s muscles that need to be anesthetized.

Finally, in came the phlebotomist. He said, “I won’t hurt you.”

“That’s good,” I said.

“It’s the needle,” he said. He smiled like I was supposed to laugh at his joke. He repeated the joke several times because I didn’t laugh.

He asked where I live. I told him the neighborhood which is about 3 miles from the clinic. “That’s not far,” he said. “You could walk.”

“Yes, I could,” I said. “But I rode my bike.”

He gave me a look that said the idea of walking was funny to him. He hadn’t expected me to take him seriously. I showed him my helmet.

“I’m not calling you a liar,” he said. His face clearly said otherwise. Who would be out biking on a hot day like today with thunderstorms predicted?

As he put the 3rd tube on the needle, I asked, “How many tubes do you need?”

“Four,” he said. “This is number 2."

He wiggled the needle.

“Ow!” I said.

“It’s not me. It’s the needle,” he said again. He smiled. He seemed to love that joke.

Then he said, “I’ve been here since 3 AM..”

“That’s 12 hours ago,” I said. “You should go home.”

“I’m only part time,” he said. I couldn’t tell if that was another joke.

He put the 4th tube on and wiggled the needle again. “It’s not me. It’s the needle.”

Finally he took the sharp pain implement out of my arm. “Do you want another?” Again he smiled.

I guess nobody wants to see a phlebotomist. Needles hurt.

I wonder what stories they tell themselves when they go to work every day. Maybe they need to make bad jokes just to live with themselves.

It seems phlebotomists are the purple cows of the medical industry. I’d never want to see a phlebotomist. I’d never want to meet one. Anyhow, I’ll tell you now, I’d rather see than be one.

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