Who am I?

April 24, 2017

Who am I? I am your phlebotomist, your processor, your lab tech.

What is my job? I draw your blood, process your samples, run your tests.

What do I do? I see you. I talk with you. I ask about your life, your children, your parents.

You tell me about your vacation. You tell me about your hospital stay. I come into your home if you can’t leave so you still get the tests done that are needed. I worry about you if you don’t come in as usual. I hope everything is all right. I hope you are all right.

I see you at your best. I celebrate your new grandchild, your new job, your recent engagement. I watch you grow up. I watch your children grow up. We laugh together. We share stories. I see you get better with treatment. We celebrate the victories.

I see you at your worst. I hold your hand when you tell me that you lost your job, that your child is sick, that you lost a loved one. You tell me about your diagnosis, you tell me about your prognosis. I understand your feelings. You don’t like the needles. You don’t want me there. You don’t want to be there. You are afraid of the outcome of the tests.

I wake you up in the middle of the night in your hospital bed to get blood. I want to tell you it is doctor’s orders, that I do this because it is needed. I want to tell you that because you haven’t been able to drink anything for days your veins collapse as soon as I try to take blood from them. I want to say phlebotomy is an art, not a science—that I can’t make a vein appear and work. That there are a lot of things that can cause issues during a blood draw. That I always try my best to get a sample the first time and to cause the least amount of pain.

I don’t say any of this. Instead I smile. I listen, even when you yell at me, when you tell me that I don’t know how to do my job, when you get so frustrated with me, with your treatment, with the entire process. I want to tell you that I see you. I see you in pain. I cause you pain. I know this. I wish there was another way, but there isn’t. There is no other way.

I do this for you. I want you to get better. I want you to not need this anymore. The doctor needs this to determine what is wrong, to see if what he prescribed is working, to make sure you are getting better. I am helping to monitor your treatment. This is to make sure that what they are doing is helping, that you are getting better and that nothing else is going on. I hope that it will work.

I process your samples because each one represents you. I work with the doctor, with the nurses. I offer advice if they need help ordering tests or knowing what to collect or how to transport it. I make sure that the tests they ordered are correct and meaningful. I see if there is any way to avoid another draw. I work with reference labs to make sure that we are sending the tests correctly and that the results will be returned in time. I hold your treatment, your future, in my hands. I make sure that there are no errors due to me. I can affect your outcome if I don’t do my job right. I know if I make a mistake it could kill you. I take pride in my work. Every sample is a life. It is your life.

I run your tests. I see your results. I help the doctor piece together what is going on. I am a silent partner in your treatment. I went to school and trained for years so that I am an expert at my job. I make sure that all the analyzers are running properly, that everything is under control. I do maintenance and troubleshoot anything that seems wrong. I want your results to be correct.

I am the first to see your results. I see your positive pregnancy test after you have been trying for years. I see your hormone levels normalize because treatment is working and hopefully you can come in less frequently. I see your undiagnosed leukemia that may explain your headaches and weakness. I see these results and they affect me too. I know I may see you on your last normal day. I know that these answers can give you a lot of relief or can crush your family. I would rather think that I did something wrong than find something wrong with you. But I make sure every result is accurate so you are treated and so you have the best possible outcome.

I see you. I hear you. I understand. I come to work every day because of you. The ability to help you is what makes my job worthwhile. I do this because I care. I am your lab tech, your processor, your phlebotomist. I am your caregiver.

Elizabeth Dahlgren, MT (ASCP), serves as Supervisor of Ambulatory Laboratory Services with ACL Laboratories and Aurora Healthcare in Milwaukee, WI.

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