Is Your Child’s Phlebotomist Your Foe Or Your Superhero?

by Pamela Alma Weymouth

Did you know that you have a voice in deciding who is going to draw your child’s blood?

The anxiety one feels as a new parent of a child with Congenital Hypothyroidism (or any medical condition) leads one to feel as if every blood draw must happen no matter what. Guess what? It’s more important that it happen in the best possible way, than any way possible.

If the phlebotomist (the lab technician who draws blood) you’re assigned to is treating your child’s arm like a dartboard, is not being compassionate, is insisting that your child be pinned down, or doing anything that’s making your child feel unsafe, you have the right to request another phlebotomist!

I’m a New Yorker, I’m nearly six feet tall, and I’ve got a really loud voice (so my children tell me) but, for the first few years of my boy’s life, any time I entered a lab I felt as if I had to do what I was told. Take a ticket. Wait in line. Watch the awful kid movie that’s playing on the screen. Go with the assigned phlebotomist. Wrong!

When Quinn was three, we showed up for our blood draw to discover that the fast, efficient, slightly cranky (but trust-worthy) phlebotomist was absent. In her place was a Russian woman who had done a total botch job on Quinn’s arm (and soul) in a previous visit.

The howling that filled the hallway along with the packed waiting room, was a tribute to her lack of skill. While I’m sure that she was doing her best, it just wasn’t good enough.

The presence of the unskilled lab tech could be measured by the howling in the hallway and the number of bodies crowding into the waiting room. Quinn sat in his stroller, an organic lollipop in his hand, brow furrowed. I had to keep reminding him that he had to wait to eat it. (This was prior to our discovery of the Buzzy, when the skill of the phlebotomist and a bribe was all I had to rely on.)

Taking a deep breath, I asked the front desk attendant, “Is there a lab manager I can speak with?” “Yes,” they said, “First floor.” Feeling empowered and a little nervous, I took Quinn’s hand and walked away from the howling.

The lab manager, Arlyn, was a short, kind, and practical Asian woman who listened with empathy to my concerns. She apologized for the Russian phlebotomist’s errors. She also divulged that this woman was only trained to work with adults! She was a substitute filling in for a staffing gap. Arlyn offered to draw Quinn’s blood herself. She got the needle in and out quickly– without pinning him down.

Sometimes you as a parent have to put on a coat of armor and use your voice to demand the the thing that will best serve your child.

Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

Several months later, the manager ended up hiring an amazing new pediatric phlebotomist, Adrian—my absolute hero. Adrienne was young, with light reddish brown hair and a streak of pink or purple hair splashed across her forehead. She was warm, kind, patient and knew how to talk to Quinn to make him feel safe. She also knew how to get the needle in quickly. If he panicked, she was willing to wait it out.

Over the years I brought Adrian cartons of multi-colored organic eggs from our backyard hens, flowers, cards, and heaps of gratitude, because I never wanted her to forget my son or how much her skill and compassion meant to us.

This year, after nearly five years of drawing Quinn’s blood Adrian retired. While we were both saddened by the loss, by the time she left, Quinn had experienced so many good blood draws under her watch, that the idea of switching to another person was a manageable road bump.

In Quinn’s last draw with Adrian, the two of them joked about dogs, hens, and skateboarding while she drew six tubes of blood for a complex battery of tests. Quinn breezed through it, like a rock star. Adrian left us with the memory of what it’s like to have a no-big-deal blood draw—and that is not something that either of us will ever forget.

How To Find the Best Phlebotomist For Your Child?

  1. Befriend the person who works at the front desk. Write down his/her name and use it (Be charming!)
  2. Request a pediatric phlebotomist.
  3. If there are several available, request the best pediatric phlebotomist on duty (Say, “I know they’re all great and I hate to put you in an awkward situation, but my baby/child has had some difficult experiences and I’d like to know if there’s anyone especially skilled?”
  4. Once you find someone you like, write his/her name into your phone. Request him/her next time!
  5. Bring a card, a small gift, or something to acknowledge how much you appreciate the phlebotomist that you love!
  6. Befriend the lab manager. Write his/her name into your phone.
  7. Call one day ahead of time to make sure that your favorite person is working at the time/date you plan to go.
  8. Find a back-up phlebotomist for the days that your favorite person is unavailable.
  9. Don’t be afraid to walk out and stop the draw if it’s not going well. It’s better to stop and return another day, than it is to continue with a traumatic draw. This will teach your child, that you’ve got his/her back—and that you are going to keep him/her safe, even though the draw must happen.

Do you know a Pediatric Phlebotomist Who Is A Superhero? Nominate Your Favorite!

Why is she/he awesome? Send in a photo (with his/her permission), his/her name and in 500-600 words tell me what makes this person a terrific phlebotomist? The best stories will be published here in an upcoming blog! The phlebotomist to get the most votes will win a HERO AWARD and a Buzzy XL hospital grade Buzzy Plus a set of distrAction Cards!

Last, but not least: Don’t forget to bring your Buzzy or LMX4 numbing cream. Go to Better Blood Draw Tips for more information on other steps you can take to improve your child’s draw.

©pamela alma weymouth/EndoCourageKids, Do not reproduce without permission

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