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From the Editor's Desk

Why I'm working on a Sunday

by Dennis Ernst • April 06, 2020

Editor's Desk

man with mask and thumbs up

These are strange times, indeed. Only on the rarest of occasions, and under the most extreme circumstances, will you ever find me working in the office on Sunday. Today is one of them.

Usually, the nature of my work simply doesn't require it. It was different during the first 20 years of my professional life when working in hospital laboratories mandated Sunday shifts, and understandably so. The humanitarian nature of healthcare requires an exception to that well known command in the best selling book of all time, Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, and I believe its author permits it. It is my fervent hope that the author finds my work today just as necessary as that of those on the front lines also working on this day of rest.

What makes this an "extreme circumstance" and "under the rarest of occasions?" The same thing that has reorganized your life and mine and the main topic of this entire issue: coronavirus.

Trust that I am deeply concerned about every one of my readers. Because many of you are also my dear friends, some for decades, when I sit down to write this column every month I feel I am writing to family. I have the privilege of writing to and for some of the most determined, dedicated, and innovative people on the planet. That's what gets me out of bed every morning and is my driving force through each day, but especially today. There exists in me a sense of urgency to complete this issue today so that you can have the information within it tomorrow.

Not later this week. Not next week. Tomorrow.

I may appear to some, and perhaps rightly so, that I've nurtured an inflated significance to the industry of my work. Fair enough. But it appears to me that nobody is writing about Covid-19 in a phlebotomy context, that we are your only source of applicable, phlebotomy-specific information on dealing with this crisis.

Believe me when I tell you this has probably been the most difficult issues to pull together in the 21 years I've been writing it, this editorial included. Sifting through the mountain of information from a multitude of sources on this topic and putting it in a digestible phlebotomy context for you has proven to be no small task. But then, who else is going to distill it for you and distribute it to you at the time you need it most.

This crisis, I believe, is yet another reason I've been gifted with this vocation, and why your path and my path ever crossed in the first place. It's why working on a day I shouldn't is not just necessary, but required of me. This sense of urgency is not of my creation. The one of my creation is telling me to go outside on this beautiful spring day and rake last fall's leaves out of the flower beds. This sense of urgency comes from somewhere else, a voice to which I have learned to become obedient.

Open bible

What we're going through is historic and of epic proportions. It will change us and our world for good. It should. There's no arguing the world seems much more cruel, divided, angry and hurtful than even ten years ago. We seem intent on tearing each other down instead of building us up. Diminishing instead of elevating. Cheating instead of abiding. Taking instead of giving. People make hurtful, mean-spirited comments to perfect strangers on facebook and Twitter, comments they'd never say to their face. (Okay, some would. But that just proves my point even further.) As terrible and devastating as this pandemic is, I think it's moving many of us to hit the reset button. To reorganize our relationships and our approaches to them, relationships that include total strangers. We saw the same thing happen immediately after 9/11, our last national devastation.

The human spirit has suddenly come alive for the greater good. This virus is giving us all something to unite against. Make no mistake, some are exploiting this crisis for nefarious purposes, but so many more are exploiting it for good. Just when it looked like we couldn't be meaner to each other, we're being nicer to each other; when it looked like we couldn't get much colder toward strangers, we're warming up to them; when it seemed we were pushing each other down, we're pulling each other up.

In most ways, this virus was the last thing the world needed. In other ways, it's the one thing it needed most.

Just look at the volunteer effort being made across the country to provide masks to healthcare professionals and the general public. Many of you may have enlisted in this voluntary army of seamstresses, men included. During WWII, citizens by the thousands organized grass roots movements to collect scrap metal for the war effort. Today, thousands are making masks, including my wife, Catherine. She converted her quilting room---one any quilter would die for---into a face-mask factory. She sews up a healthy inventory and distributes them within the community. Sure, Michigan has a "stay-home" order, but when she's out getting necessities, she's distributing masks. Anyone she sees who wants or needs one gets one.

[By the way, if you're looking for simple, easy instructions to make masks, the process Catherine uses goes one better than the instructions provided by the CDC linked in the lead article in this issue. Hers includes a metal wire for flush fitting at the bridge of the nose, and an inside pouch for inserting any additional filtering material the user might deem necessary, such as a coffee-filter, or furnace-filter paper. Furnace paper should be a minimum of MERV 13. I'm modeling one of them in the image at the right. Here's the instructions for her model that attach to the ear. Here are instructions and a pattern for models that tie behind the head.]

The information in this issue is culled from the review of a multitude of articles, reports, and federal; recommendations on dealing with this virus. Trust that we've turned over all the stones available and pulled it into an issue that is the most phlebotomy-specific publication you'll find. That's what we do, that's what the Center for Phlebotomy Education was born to do. We work for you, and cherish your trust in all the Center produces. Your trust is well placed.

I don't care to work another Sunday anytime soon. I'm sure you don't care to work another pandemic. But when you're called, you're called. April will not be friendly to us, but we are capable of being friendly to everyone we encounter in April and every month thereafter.

These are strange times, indeed. Please be safe, and be kind.

Take care, my friend,

Dennis J. Ernst, editor

P.S., Your focus understandably must be in getting past this crisis, not just at work but in your personal lives. Yet, it's never been more important to make sure every phlebotomist feels appreciated and recognized during National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, April 19-25. Here's some quick and affordable ideas to consider.

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