Confessions of a Phlebotomist: Same four walls, different scenery

phlebotomistFirst of all, I know that what I do makes most people pretty darn squeamish. Patients tolerate blood tests at best and go faint at worst. But I must tell you that I truly love what I do.

The same four walls actually look different from day to day because of the wide variety of people who walk through my door. Before I became a phlebotomist, I used to watch television shows like ER and wonder if patients were really like that. I'm here to tell you that yes, they are-in every way.

-- Compare your salary to a phlebotomists.

When I started out I was fairly young, 23, and looked even younger than my age.

One day, after a crazy-busy morning, a cranky elderly woman came in and began questioning my abilities as soon as she sat down. "Well young lady, you sure don't look old enough to be drawing my blood. Are you sure you're qualified to do this?" I smiled and prepped her arm. As soon as I was ready to poke her with the needle, I smiled again and couldn't resist saying, "I'm actually a high school student. I'm on my externship. This is my first time on an actual real person; we only practiced on oranges in training." The woman was speechless! I knew I was good at what I did, and I did an excellent job on her. She was flabbergasted when I finished like a pro!

I've done about 1,000 blood draws, but however many more I might do I will never forget one man who was Hepatitis B positive. While I was putting on my gloves, he asked me to double bag them (put on two pairs) for my protection. I didn't oblige. I have to imagine that every one of my patients has AIDS or Hepatitis and follow precautions. While I was in the middle of drawing his blood he explained that he contracted the virus because back in his "younger days" he liked to do "kinky things in kinky places on women." TMI! I must have turned three shades of red!

It always amazes me when men or women in the armed services drop like flies at the sight of a needle. They can be strong while dodging bullets aimed to kill them, but, as soon as the tourniquet goes on and the needle goes in their arm, they pass out! One young navy man, a hulking guy who was well over six feet tall and easily weighed 240 pounds, was all tough until half way through the blood draw, when his face turned a sickly shade of green. He said, "I feel funny..." and fainted. He came back to about five seconds later and kept apologizing for it.

What could I do? I told him, "Don't worry about it; it happens all the time. We are glad to have you serve our country!"

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