Archive | 6:27 pm

phlebotomist needs crash course of icm or dr-pt relationship

25 Aug

It’s a little ironic.  Today was our first small group session in Introduction to Clinical Medicine.  We met with a few standardized patients and practiced taking patient histories of present illness.  We experimented with ways of making sure we hit on all the major, preliminary bullet points while creating a pleasant flow in the interview and demonstrating respect and empathy.  As a novice, it’s not always intuitive.  For me, it’s hard to always listen well while going through a check-list in my head.  I’ll practice.  I’ll get better.

Immediately following, I went to get some bloodwork performed.  Not unusual.  I get stuck a fair bit, and I’m actually a little proud of being good with needles, a talent that’s come with practice 🙂  So, no biggie: I heard my name; I sat in the chair with the funny armrests; I watched as one my usual phlebotomists (who still looks at me like it’s our first time meeting) wrapped a tourniquet around my right arm.  Then I made my first mistake: I asked her whether I needed to change my insurance information at their lab or whether just being in the Penn system would suffice.  Exactly what information she provided was unclear to me; she definitely did not answer my question, but at least she repeated herself multiple times while interrupting me as I tried to clarify.

Next comes the mildly humiliating part.  I’ve been told I’m a hard stick.  My veins, apparently, like to “jump”–as in, the phlebotomist or other care provider will see a nice, juicy vein right below my skin, and think he’s got it made, but then my vein dodges away after the needle pierces my skin, at which point he either attempts another stick or goes digging.  The former is preferred by me.  The latter was attempted by said phlebotomist today.  It was not pretty, and I think this was the first time I actually let a f—! escape from under my breath.  For most caregivers, this would be cue to apologize or demonstrate some empathy, even for a wimp like me.  Her reaction: “Looks like someone’s not good with needles!”

Are you kidding me?

A few more somewhat demeaning interactions later, and I was walking out of the lab livid.  Then I thought: Wait a sec.  She should know better.  I deserve better, and she should want to know how to do better.  So, in a moment of complete stupidity, I walked back into the lab and approached her.  I composed myself, looked into her eyes, referenced our long-standing, normally good relationship.  Then I expressed that I didn’t feel like today went so well, and I enumerated my reasons, using tons of “I” statements (ex. “I felt embarrassed when you commented that I wasn’t good with needles”).  She interrupted me and told me that she was sorry I was upset (which is not a real apology), then proceded to tell me techniques about how to become more comfortable with needles (seriously?).

I’ve decided that she either doesn’t care or she’s an idiot.  Too harsh?  I mean, I know I’m a biased opinion here but, in this case, I do not think this is a problem of anna’s oversensitive nature.

I ran into one of my doctor’s while leaving.  I hadn’t seen her in person in six months, but she called me by name, asked how I was doing, and said that she would call me ASAP with the results of my bloodwork.  She’s a brilliant physician (one of our lecturers at Penn) and she’s socially competent.  Today’s experience reaffirmed that it’s totally possible to be both or neither.