Can you remember where you were when an experience showed you who you could be? I do. After graduating college, I wanted to find a way to harmonize my passion for community with my need to make an impact on society, so I began volunteering at the University of Colorado in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. I had an experience there that inspired me and has shaped my career’s trajectory.
During one quiet day on the unit a phlebotomy technician approached me with a task: to obtain a couple positive and uplifting movies for a patient who would most likely not make it through to the next day. Confident in my ability to achieve this, I hurried down to the volunteer office. As I looked through the selection of DVDs, I became disheartened. Nothing in their collection would do. All I could think was that this patient was living his last moments, and I couldn’t provide a happy distraction. When I returned, my sorrow was quickly reversed when I found the technician by the patient’s bedside, using her phone to watch his favorite movie with him. I was so moved by her compassion, I hosted a DVD drive to collect positive, uplifting movies for situations like this
I called numerous radio stations to get the word out and was featured on the local country radio station’s morning show to announce my drive and mission. My volunteer position, in combination with my customer service job, had allowed me to develop a large clientele and access to a community willing to help me in my efforts. I was touched by all the patrons who passed out flyers in the neighborhood about the drive. I ended up collecting over 200 DVDs, which I proudly delivered to the volunteer office. This intersection of medicine and community allowed me to experience firsthand the power of compassion in the medical community. I discovered my profound ability to bring together a community of unlikely individuals in an insightful and moving way. This experience also made me think seriously about the possibility of becoming a phlebotomy technician.
Four months, later I was practicing the art of phlebotomy in a hospital setting. As a phlebotomist I was doing more than drawing blood; I was learning the fundamentals of healthcare such as patient privacy, patient advocacy, and how to prevent the transmission of disease. I learned the importance of diagnostic and laboratory testing, how blood samples can provide clues to diagnosis and treatment. Over the years my patients have shown me the meaning of tragedy and triumph, hope and disappointment, and most of all, the importance of being kind and gentle to those who are sick and in need. After drawing blood for more than 5 years with nearly 15,000 hours of patient care experience, I’ve learned the duty of a phlebotomist extends beyond the needle. It requires passion for diagnostic testing, patient education, patient advocacy, as well as dedication and commitment to others, to opportunities to learn, to engage in team collaboration and the ability to provide passionate medical care. Phlebotomy allows you to approach medicine with a multidisciplinary mindset and the ability to work in a medical community with a discourse of many facets under the unified goal of improving the quality of life across communities both nationally and abroad.
Before I witnessed the compassionate care of a phlebotomy technician, I was unsure of how to combine my passion for community with a rewarding career. In witnessing such compassion and care beyond duty, I was inspired to help, which ultimately inspired a community. That one experience showed me who I was supposed to be and what I am today – Kristi Nelson, Clinical Laboratory/Phlebotomy Coordinator.
That first experience now serves as the standard of care for my own phlebotomy team. I ensure we provide patient care that extends beyond the expectation, care that inspires change and creates a butterfly effect of positivity and compassion, in the same way that the phlebotomist had inspired me. This is just one example of how a phlebotomy interaction not only with a patient, but with other medical professionals (volunteers included) can influence patient care and the future of medicine in a positive way.
-Kristi Nelson is a Laboratory Coordinator for the Clinical Laboratory, Client Services and Customer Support at Orlando Regional Medical Center. It was through her work as a certified phlebotomist and emergency medical technician that Kristi found her passion for the healthcare community and leadership. Kristi’s leadership style follows the belief that if your actions inspire others to, learn more, do more and become more then you are a leader. Kristi demonstrates her passion for leadership by participating as the Compliance & Ethics Ambassador, Orlando Health Way Ambassador, and spokesperson for Orlando Health’s volunteer campaigns for the laboratory. Kristi holds a BA in Women’s and Ethnic Studies from the University of Colorado. Kristi is completing her BS in Neuro Psychology from the University of Central Florida and a dual Masters of Business Administration and Science Management and Leadership from Webster University.