I take some of our Avcor Pink Susan G Komen tourniquets to my doctor’s office when I have a checkup. The nurses like our tourniquets more than the white ones that their office manager buys for them and I don’t want to be stuck more than once so I make sure they have a tourniquet that works. I’m a bit of a coward around needles anyway. I don’t want to misrepresent the nurses. They are extremely good at blood draws and do a lot of them. I just like to improve my odds by giving them better tools. Imagine my experience when I arrived the other day and found a trainee waiting to use me as her first trial subject. I have a little more knowledge than most on blood draws considering we make IV products, but I realized what it must be like from the patient’s viewpoint when everything starts to go wrong. We started with a search for all the necessary components to accomplish the procedure and since they were not all on the tray this was accompanied with numerous inquiries. A well-used tourniquet was found in a drawer, dropped on the floor, picked up with a gloved hand and brought to my side to apply along with several differently labeled vials for the blood collection. Out of curiosity, I let the trainee put the tourniquet on just to see how far her trainer would let her go before stopping her. When she uncapped the needle and started to stick me, I put a stop to the procedure. I knew I had both a problem and a teaching opportunity.
As a patient I was concerned but as a knowledgeable one I knew I would not fall victim to my circumstances. I started off with a few questions. I asked her if infection was something she was concerned with during blood draws. This is such an automatic yes that few clinicians even think about it. The follow up question was whether she felt like she had maintained the sterile field as she collected her components. She had actually violated that field several times. When she put on her gloves before collecting her components, she contaminated her gloves with every surface she touched including the floor when she picked up the tourniquet she dropped. When she reused the old tourniquet she also introduced possible contamination from prior procedures into my sphere. Additionally, her application of the old tourniquet did not effectively obtain an elevated vein and I faced possible multiple sticks to complete the procedure, on top of which the mislabeled vials introduced possible complications in the follow-up lab work. After some initial embarrassment and some discussion over how we could improve the experience and reduce infection risk, we started over and I am happy to report drew blood with a minimum of discomfort and in a way that satisfied me they were looking out for both the quality of the procedure and the proper outcome. They even provided me with a handful of doctor’s samples that offset my cost of a prescription. Ultimately we are responsible for our own health and care. Our caregivers try hard to provide good service to us but occasionally even the best can slip up. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when something doesn’t seem quite right to you. After all, you are the one with the most to lose.