Monday, July 11, 2011

Are You Sure You Don't Know How to Draw Blood?

Once every month each of the 13 Rakai Health Sciences Program satellite clinics have what they call a "bleeding day" when most patients come to have their blood taken and tested for things like CD4 levels, viral load, and other infections.  On Friday Leigh and I went to a clinic hub to help staff organize patient files during their bleeding day.  When we arrived we were given two options: 1) looking through patient files, writing down the blood tests each person needs, and labeling vials (the job we thought we were there to do), or 2) drawing blood.  Obviously since we are public health students (not medical or nursing students) and not equipped with the clinical skills to draw blood, we opted for patient filing.  The clinic staff really wanted us to try taking blood though.  One nurse in particular kept saying, "just try it, I'll teach you!"  Later she came back and said, "are you sure you don't want to try?"  This seemed to speak to the strong culture of teaching and learning, as well as the fact that sometimes when the clinic is short-staffed literally all hands are needed on deck.  While we were appreciative to the offer of phlebotomy lessons, we stuck to the files.

We labelled each vial with the type of test to be performed as well as the patient's ID number.  After all the blood was taken, it was loaded in coolers to be taken back to the lab at RHSP headquarters.  Next, lab techs will perform the necessary blood tests, the results will be communicated to the satellite clinic, and the next time patients come in they will receive their results and/or have their ART regimen modified if necessary.  Quite the complex system.

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