A few weeks ago, my wife and I took our two-year-old son to have blood drawn at the A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children. Knowing how comfortable I am only occasionally starting IV’s on kids, we wanted him stuck by people who work only with kids. Armed with his two favorite stuffed animals, we arrived early to a packed waiting room. Everyone was very polite and courteous, and we were brought back before our appointment time.
My son walked over to the chair and were greeted by a grandmotherly phlebotomist. She showed our son an Elmo doll she had. She flipped a switch and it started dancing. Then she did the same dance next to it. My son was so excited about his new friend. We lifted him into the chair and she positioned the doll to his left. He was mesmerized by it, and did not notice what happened on his right arm until the first tube was filled. She was done with both tubes about ten seconds after he started crying. Her job with our son was over and other children were waiting, but she still took the time to apply bandages to his favorite stuffed animals. He pointed at theirs, and then pointed to his.
Afterwards we went to the playground outside the hospital, and what could have been a traumatic event was forgotten. While watching my son squeal as he went down the slide, I thought about what our phlebotomist’s job must be like. There’s the art of getting their little patients to sit in the chair, interacting with anxious partents, and earning their trust. Neither the parents nor their child are always friendly. Then there’s the skill of getting a needle into to a child’s small vein while keeping their arm still. Then there’s the art of recovering that trust after a missed stick. On top of that, they manage to make each family feel special for the few minutes they must inflict pain on their child.
AI Dupont is the only children’s hospital in Delaware, and the closest one to a large portion of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland. It is a pediatric level 2 trauma center and has a number of other specialties. Patients travel very far to go there, so I suspect the waiting room at the lab is usually full. Our son was one of many who went through the lab’s system that day, but they made us feel like we were special.
This made me think about how much effort we put towards making our patients feels special. It’s easy to forget that each routine call for chest pain, a dialysis transfer, or a passed out drunk are for human beings who need help. In EMS, we are with our patients much longer than our phlebotomist was with our son and in a much more intimate setting. We get invited into their homes and share the enclosed space in the back of a vehicle with them. We should be humbled by this responsibility, and should make every effort to treat each patient the way our son was. .