There are times when I how different medicine is from any the degree, such as
the first time that we were taught to take blood. Nurses, I have been told have session where
they practice on a plastic arm, and whilst the medical school do own a plastic arm, they decided
that we should practice on our friends.
After our tutor, a GP, had demonstrated how to do it on an orange, which looked simple
enough, we were asked to get into pairs. Bravely my friend Kim let me go first, I carefully
tightened the tourniquet around her arm, and after some asking her to clench her first a few
times there we were, we had a nice blue vein. I carefully assembled the syringe; Kim commented
that her arm was beginning to hurt a little. Finally after taking the top off the needle and
carefully placing it in the correct way in the little plastic device that means that you won't
stab your self with the needle. I felt for the target vein. Took a deep breath. And another
'Will you please get on with it,' Kim snapped, 'before my arm falls off.'
I decided it was time to go for it, and pushed the needle through her skin, it was tougher
than I'd imagined so I gave it another harder push. Now we were in I pulled the plunger back
on the syringe, no blood came out.
Not to worry, Dr Davies, said that this might happen; I pushed the needle a little further in,
until some dark purple liquid squirted into the syringe. Barely able to contain my excitement I
pulled it out of her arm, and proudly displayed the syringe too the rest of the group.
'Err Steve...' came Kim's voice from behind me, as I spun around I saw a small trickle of
blood, winding its way down her arm.
I was only a first year medical student, and not a particularly good one at that, I reacted in
the only way could think of. I squealed. Quick as a flash our tutor leapt into action, removed
the tourniquet and pressed down on the bleeding, until it miraculously stopped. And all with the
air of calm and competence. I expected he had gained that from working in A and E.
For the next two weeks Kim proudly flaunted a deep purple bruise on the inside of her
elbow, to make it worse she insisted on wearing T shirts every where and telling almost
everyone that it was my fault.
By third year I still didn't like taking blood, it involved hurting people, and as I was
nervous I tended to hurt people more than most. As I'm not the kind of person who wears black
PVC on Saturday, I didn't like hurting people, so I went to great lengths to avoid doing it.
I was in A and E the other day, making a sure the consultant saw that I was shadowing a
doctor on call, when it began to have a use.
'Sister,' yelled a tired looking junior doctor, 'the lady in cubicle three needs blood cultures done urgently.' Something bleeped, and he ran off to a man having a heart attack in cubicle 5.
'But I can't take blood cultures!'
It was too late the doctor was busy shouting things about adrenaline, and ignoring the nurses plea.
'I could take it Sister.'
This was the moment of truth; my time had come, the sooner I took the blood sample the
sooner she could start on antibiotics. Miraculously it worked, dark purple blood filled the
syringe at my first attempt.