The lab technician came to the waiting room and called my name. I followed her to the cubicle with the padded brown chair that has the armrests that flop over the front of the chair.
“Okay, Julie, the first thing I need to tell you is that I am an intern.”
I smiled up at her and said, “Last month I felt so bad rejecting you in favor of a more experienced phlebotomist. It’s a month later… how many sticks have you done now?”
“Probably 300, maybe 320,” she replied sheepishly.
“Alright, let’s do this!” I said.
I actually would have liked to ask for a senior tech, but I thought I should give her the chance to prove her competence.
She tied the rubber strap on my upper left arm and I curled up my left hand into a fist. She asked me to take a breath in, and let it out.
The needle went in correctly, but it was a little painful.
My head was turned away from my outstretched left arm, eyes focusing on a spot on the wall over my right shoulder where they previously had an image taped up and when they removed it, they left 4 brown irregular rectangles where the pale green paint had peeled off the drywall.
She filled one vial with my blood, and then said, “Oh my God! This has never happened before. I mean, I’ve never seen this happen before. Jim! Jim! Ji-i-im!”
The needle was in my arm, but something had “popped out” and she was unable to stick the second or third vial onto the needle.
Jim took over.
He removed the needle from my vein, placing a cotton ball and two pieces of tape over the tiny hole.
“You okay?” he inquired gently.
“Um, yeah… how many sticks have you done?” I asked, as he was getting ready to make a new hole in my other arm.
“Gosh, I don’t know, some number of millions,” he replied.
“That’s interesting, because your stick barely hurt. Is it just practice? Are you poking it in less deeply?”
“It’s probably practice, and then you develop a technique,” he said matter of factly.
The moral of the story is that I put my concern for this other person’s feelings before my concern for my well being. The end result was 2 sticks instead of one, double the holes in my body, and double the time.
I told her not to feel bad, that is was no big deal, and that it was a good learning experience for her.
The learning experience for me is that when it comes to medical procedures, I should take care of myself first, and ask for an experienced lab tech! My internal voice said, “No good deed goes unpunished!”
Then I reminded my inner critic that no real harm was done.
I was fine. It wasn’t stupid to have given the intern a chance. But at the same time, I acknowledged that I wouldn’t make the same choice the next time.
How many little choices do we make every day where we are balancing these two competing interests?