Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Phlebotomists 'R Us

I knew back in the hospital as a tech what all nurses and patients have known since time immemorial: doctors can't draw blood. They're horrible at it. Shouldn't matter, right? Doctors have other much more important things to do like Chest tubes and Lumbar Punctures and all the other things that make an aspiring med student salivate. As an underling, I was almost grateful that I could be better at just this one stupid thing. What's funny is that patients don't think that way. When a physician walks in and starts stabbing and missing, they change in the eyes of their patient and become a little less Superman and a little more Clark Kent. Too bad that it happens over some stupid blood draws.

But here's what really gets me: they get to pull ABGs! An Arterial Blood Gas is a collection of oxygenated blood from a pulsing tube in your wrist. It's deeper than a vein, harder to draw correctly, and with more serious consequences. Patients wnjoy this even less than a vein puncture. So since my first days in the hospital, I've wanted to know exactly what kind of training future MDs get in the arts of nursing. Well guess what...

OUR CLASS JUST DREW BLOOD! That's right, 300+ students that have never held a needle were shown a 10 minute instructional video explaining what happens when nothing goes wrong, and then they were given a tube, tourniquet, needle, cotton swab and bandaid! We were placing bets on how many students would pass out, vomit, or just walk out.

Guess what: THINGS WENT WRONG! Needles with vacutainers still attached were pulled, sucking tissue with them; veins were blown and swelling under the skin with tourniquets still tightly fastened; and hands were shaking so violently that the needle was scrapping back and forth before it had the chance to hit the target. There's a rule among phlebotomists that it takes 100 draws to get comfortable and trully competent. With that math in mind, 3 people had correct draws today. Pretty respectable, I think.

Our group faired well: three shaky hands, two blown veins, only one blood spill onto the table and a lot to laugh about. Good day all around.

P.S. If you need a summer job that pays within reason: phlebotomy is the way to go.


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