Agraphia Medical Tragicomedy

9Apr/07Off

Sticking It (to the man)

Placing an IV is hard. Really, really hard. It's even harder because every time you practice, you practice on real people, who experience real pain. Much like the pain that I was in today.

Today we had clinical skills practice, where we learned - ha! - how to draw blood, place IV's, and give subcutaneous shots. Now, the subQ shots I can already do, because of all the kids vaccine stuff last year. But the IV's are really, really difficult. Lets see if we† can't give you a feel for it.

So you're looking at someone's hand. The vein is bulging out, thanks to the tourniquet you've so expertly placed. That was the easy part. Needle in your right hand, vein trapped under the thumb of your left. In passing, you realize that you're about to drive a sharp needle directly through someone else's skin, at a vein that is so distended and huge it looks like it's laughing at you.

You poke. The vein, like a greased-up hog at a redneck barbeque, dodges. You start rooting around, hoping to see the flash of blood that will tell you your needle is in. None comes. Pain is written all over your victim's face. Tissue is swelling. You have no idea where the vein is in relation to your needle. It could be up, down, left, right, and you would never know. It's like a drunk guy with a blindfold trying to hit a pinata.

Meanwhile you know full well that if you push too far in, your needle will pierce muscle, fascia - or worse, nerve - and the pain they're in now will be dwarfed in comparison. So you carefully tool around for a few more seconds, ripping up more tissue as you do. Then you pull out, discouraged, and silently curse your stubby fingers.

And that, friends, is what it's like to learn how to perform a medical procedure.
Tomorrow: NG tubes.

†the royal we...

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  1. Aha! Now please don’t give me such a hard time for the disastrous blood draw(s) I gave you at the CUP training.


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