I had quite an interesting visit to the lab today to get my weekly blood work done. I went to the same lab I normally go to, and as usual, I ended up with a new phlebotomist. I signed in for my appointment 10 minutes early and then sat down in the waiting room. Within a couple of minutes, a woman yells my name and says, “Come back and go to room 5”. Normally, they come into the waiting room to call your name and walk back to the desired room with you; I was already off to an odd start. I sat down and she entered the room moments later. I told her that they normally use my right arm.
She looks at me and asks if I’m okay. I said I was very tired, that it’s a side effect of the new medication I’m on, the med that is causing me to have my blood work done every week. Then the odd and inappropriate questions and comments began. She asked what medication I was on that required weekly blood work; I told her it was Clozapine. She asked why I decided to go on this medication; I reluctantly told her I’ve been dealing with suicidal ideations for 5 or 6 months. I didn’t want to answer her questions, but I have a hard time saying “no” to people. She asked if I see a therapist; I said I see both a therapist and psychiatrist; I informed her that I’ve been dealing with this since I was 14. She asked what I was being treated for; I told her I’m diagnosed with bipolar 1 and PTSD. Then she asked why I was diagnosed with PTSD. None of this is any of her business, but I was so uncomfortable and struggle to tell people to back off, so I hesitantly told her it was from a bad relationship.
Then she started to tell me that her husband was schizophrenic and he took medication too, as if that’s supposed to mean something to me and make it okay for her to ask me these questions. At this point, she began telling me what I should do to help my disorders, as if I don’t try to help myself and I don’t know what’s good or bad for me. She told me I should start doing some kickboxing or martial arts, which would help to empower me so I felt better. I told her I would think about it, but she kept telling me that I should do it. I explained that I had a double knee surgery and I have to take things easy, and she told me I was using that as an excuse. She asked if I used meditation; I told her it was something I was working on. Her next question was if I took time journal at all. I told her that I just started a blog and I found it extremely helpful. She responded by telling me that I should write everything out by hand, that typing doesn’t have the same effect. I told her that it works for me, but she kept telling me what I should do.
I called my mom as soon as this appointment was over and told her all about it. I don’t always know what’s appropriate and I needed to make sure I wasn’t overreacting. I wasn’t sure if being offended was necessary, I don’t trust my emotions lately. My mom reaffirmed my emotions. She told me that it was okay to be upset; this woman should not have asked me these questions. My mom told me I was “should on”. She made me laugh and loosen up a little bit. Since I struggle so much with saying no, my mom helped me find the appropriate words in case it happens again. I can say, “I’m not comfortable with this conversation. Can we please stop talking?” She also told me that I could talk to a supervisor if I wanted or I could simply ask for another phlebotomist. Talking to my mom validated the emotions I had about my experience. While I decided I don’t want to do anything about it unless it happens again, my mom helped me feel more comfortable with what I could say if I decide to talk to a supervisor about it. After having a short conversation with my mom, I felt as if I could take control next time; I could decide what I’m comfortable saying. I’m no longer nervous about my next appointment. I always feel more comfortable after talking with my mom.
4 thoughts on “Inappropriate Phlebotomist: Difficult Blood Work Visit”
I had a similiar situation happen to me twice in my life at the doctors office staff doing the workup before the doctor came in. First time in 2000, second time two years ago. I told both doctors of the inappropriate comments about my dx and one woman was let go. The second, my doctor said she will address it and was very apolegetic. Point being, your story, she was way out of line, breaching privacy rules. Report it.
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That’s terrible that you had a similar experience twice; it sounds like you did a good job when you reported them. You are strong and brave for reporting it. For me, my anxiety takes over every time I think about going back to report it. It’s too much for me to deal with at this moment. But I do have a plan in case it happens again, and I will tell the supervisor next time.
You handled it with class, patience and kindness. She was in violation of HIPAA privacy rules and had no business asking you those things. It is sad that there are people out there that think they have the right to invade your privacy without your permission, even if their intentions are good. I have to think that if she had all the answers and knew exactly what you or anyone “should” do to “magically” get better and that it would work all the time, she would be a pretty famous person! I don’t think she’d be hiding out in a lab as a phlebotomist….maybe that’s just her alter-ego! LOL. Seriously – she was inappropriate and you already know that, this seems to be more about trusting your instincts and learning to say “I’m just here for my labs, thanks” or what ever works for you. With each day, with every experience, we learn and grow….
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Sometimes people are trying to help and don’t realize how invasive and inappropriate they are. But now I’m prepared if it happens again. I didn’t know what to do yesterday; I work well when I have a plan of action, which I did not have yesterday. I don’t want to report it because of my anxiety. It’s too much for me to go back and deal with it all over again, but I will do so if it happens next time I’m there. As always, thank you for your support and insight.
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