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Saturday, 1 November 2008

What is Phlebotomy?

There I was last week in a waiting room at Perth Royal Infirmary, Scotland, quite content to pass the time with the thoughts going round in my head while I waited for a blood sample to be taken.

"Roger Thomas". My name was called.

"Sorry you had to wait so long", said the lady who was going to take it.

"Not at all," I replied, "I didn't think I had to wait long, besides I was writing an article in my head about sine waves".

In truth it was something similar to Kondratieff waves.

Too late I had opened my mouth, the look given me was a bit iffy, a bit unsure. I had to reply.

"Paul Mason, the Economics Editor for Newsnight has put an article on his site about creating a new global financial order and I was just thinking about my next contribution".

I couldn't tell whether the expression returned was inquisitive or oh my God I've got the nutter. When in a hole stop digging might be an appropriate phrase to consider. But no not me I keep going.

"Most people know my work, but not my name, the agenda for the 2005 G8 in Perthshire, climate change and Africa was derived from my work. When Al Gore was notified of his Nobel Prize he referred to my work on the risk assessment of climate change and terrorism, but he says the British Government, not me, hardly anybody knows me but many know my work".

"Like us". She replied.

"Phlebotomists?" I said.

"Yes". Was the acknowledgement. We had got there, the common ground, I knew what her proper job title was.

"Perhaps you could write about us, hardly anyone knows what we do, we don't get paid much and we have to work behind closed doors", nodding to the closed door of the treatment room I was in. "Its not really safe".

"Yes I will try and do something. I have a website it gets a reasonable number of hits, but not too many but the people who visit I think are of a thoughtful nature".

With the blood taken, I thought, give me a few days then search Celtic Lion Phlebotomy.


I left and checked the time. I had been in the hospital for exactly one hour. I had booked in, had an initial small blood sample taken. Then seen a nurse for my weight and blood pressure, spot on OK. Then seen the Doctor, then had another blood sample taken and was on my way. No complaints there about inefficiency. It couldn't have been done much quicker.

Now on top of a 100 other things, I had to think about Phlebotomy. How do you approach that? First I thought about safety and behind closed doors. Now this isn't a problem specific to Phlebotomy. Many people have to work one to one. Any problem here is a problem of society in general. Phlebotomy, if it feels it has a problem, really needs to join in a greater movement to create a better society, a better world.

Down to specifics. I remember being really ill in hospital at one point. It seemed my whole day just consisted of blood being taken either from my arms or my fingers. Just pain on top of pain. Discomfort when I wanted to be left alone.

"Here are the blood suckers for you." the other patients in the ward would shout and laugh when the trolley arrived for another sample.

"Vampire time". Would go the call time after time.

Here, I would suggest, is the problem with Phlebotomy. It has too many associations with the painful dark side of culture and society. Phlebotomy is the one who sticks the needle in and draws the blood. Behind them and unseen are those in the labs who do the analysis and those who do the assessment and those who provide the treatment.

But is is those blood sucking vampires who stick the needle in, these are the front line. Without them none of the rest could do what they do. Blood and the information derived from it, leaves the patient, circulates around the health service and returns to the patient, in another form, as treatment. A positive cycle which begins with the Phlebotomist.

Blood has many positive connotations. Blood, the word on its own can mean family, kinship. Which leads to such positive values as trust, support, togetherness. Blood is thicker than water.

Perhaps those vampiristic, blood sucking agents of pain need a make over.

Phlebotomy: The Life Blood of the Health Service.

But does Phlebotomy help itself. I needed to research, so I put Phlebotomy into Google and clicked on Wikipedia to see what they said. I think that despite the millions of entries that the site contains, no one from Phlebotomy has taken the time to write an entry describing what they do, how it is done or anything that may interest the public about the subject.

Change begins with the profession. What about letting us know a bit more about you? There must be a Phlebotomy association or similar with someone who could write an entry in one of the largest first point of call reference sites on the web.

A journey of a 1000 miles begins with the first step.

Believe in yourself, let others know about you.

In a months time it would be nice to see a proper entry in Wikipedia. The next time I visit PRI a pleasant little affirmation message about yourself wouldn't go amiss.
Even if it is just a small poster with Phlebotomy: Life Blood of the Health Service, or something devised which you think is appropriate.

You are very important, just let others know how important.

Life Blood.

PS The Google dictionary doesn't even recognise your profession either.

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