A Good Phlebotomist (A Good What Now?)

For anyone not familiar with the term a phlebotomist is a medical lab technician dedicated to drawing blood. As someone who has to give blood more frequently than most people and who has crap veins I really appreciate a phlebotomist who can do his or her job well. I was thinking of this today as I looked down at my wrist which is covered with a gigantic bruise from the blood draw I had on Thursday.

One of the medications I take to help control both my arthritis and Crohn’s disease is actually a low dose of a chemo drug. It is extremely hard on my liver. Thus I am required to have my liver enzyme levels checked every few months to make sure it is not in fact destroying my liver. This is also why I am not allowed to drink lest I tax my liver any more than it already is.

My current insurance allows for my rheumatologist’s office to draw the blood and send it away for testing. Their office does not have a dedicated phlebotomist so my blood is drawn by whatever nurse happens to be working with my doctor on the day of my appointment. As I have mentioned I am the veinless wonder. People consistently have difficulty finding veins on me when they want to draw blood. The one time that I tried to actually donate blood the person spent awhile looking at my arms for a vein, finally told me she couldn’t find one bigger than the needle they use, and sent me on my merry way. Last Thursday the first nurse took a look and couldn’t find any veins and gave up without even trying to stick me. This is not a rare occurrence. She went and got the infusion nurse, who presumably should be better at finding a vein. That nurse searched around the crook of both my arms, gave up there, looked at my hand, gave up, and finally settled on the top of my wrist where she proceeded to stick me multiple times and root around in there until she finally got in a vein. Sadly, again none of this is rare when I’m getting my blood drawn. I always hate when they go for the hand or wrist because it hurts a lot more. I always say it’s a good thing that I don’t have an issue with needles or blood. I also like to joke that I could never be a heroin addict because I would never be able to find a vein to shoot up in.

All this hoopla makes me really appreciate a good phlebotomist who can get me on the first stick, which is a rare thing. The insurance I had previously for some reason would not let my rheumatologist’s office actually draw the blood, but instead insisted that I go to the lab facility to have it drawn. That wasn’t convenient for me, so instead I would drop in to my primary care physician’s office and have my blood drawn and they would send it off to the lab for me. I haven’t had my blood drawn there in years, but the dedicated phlebotomist they had working was the best person I’ve ever had draw my blood. She never missed a single time.

Because I saw her quite frequently she knew that I was a hard stick. One time I went in to get my blood drawn and she was on a break or busy doing something else so one of the nurses in the office took me in and was about to draw my blood. The phlebotomist happened to look across the hall and see me sitting there. She leapt up, darted into the room waving her arms yelling don’t do it she’s a really hard stick. It was like one of those things you see in the movies where someone is trying to stop something and they’re flying through the air in slow motion screaming NOOOOoooo. So she rescued me from being stuck multiple times. It was one of my best experiences in a doctor’s office ever.

I definitely miss her skills with a needle every time someone else draws my blood. For now, I’ll just hope the next person who draws my blood has half the skills she has.

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