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Why Are You Where You Are?

Even if you're miserable where you work, there could be a reason

by Dennis Ernst • December 24, 2021

Professionalism, Editor's Desk

The Big Question

As we close out the year and focus on friends, faith and family, this is a really good time to ask this question: Why are you where you are today? 

More precisely, why has your life’s journey brought you into some capacity in phlebotomy, of all things? Why not some other profession? And why did your path bring you to your current workplace? Why not some other company, organization or facility? Coincidence? Maybe. But let me offer another theory: you are where you are supposed to be. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are where we are because we have a contribution to make that we could not otherwise make if we were somewhere else.

Over the years, you've made a thousand decisions that changed your path in some small, seemingly insignificant way, some on your own and some at the nudgings of a higher power. You've made this friend and not that one; you've chosen to learn about this and not that; you've followed what's in your heart when your mind said something else, but other times you did the opposite; you've taken the left fork in the road not the right, and then you took the right fork. All of these miniscule decisions have collectively determined where you are today and who you work for. They could have just as likely led you to a completely different career and place, but they didn't. Why?

There was a time in my career when I hated what I did for a living. It was pure drudgery. I was miserable, but trapped. Looking back, though, I was right where I belonged. If it weren't for those many years of career misery I never would have taken the leap to start my own education company when the opportunity presented itself. That company blessed me abundantly with opportunities to teach phlebotomy techniques to people around the world, most importantly, you. I had to be miserable for a while so that I could later contribute in ways I would otherwise not be motivated to contribute. It has taken me beyond anything I had ever imagined.

Not long into the misery phase of my laboratory career, I got a call from ICU to draw lab work. When I arrived I was astounded at the jungle of IV lines draining fluids into the unconscious man's veins, the ventilator and all the other mechanical devices puffing and pumping to keep him alive. It seemed to me that if a body needed that many lines and that much equipment, his condition was beyond desperate. I inserted my needle into his vein and experienced something I will never forget. 

As the blood flowed into tube after tube, I had a strong and strange sense that he was talking to me. Not verbally but, strange as it sounds, telepathically. I was dumbstruck. It was a form of communication I had never experienced before or since, but it was clear and distinct. He was telling me how he knew he had to let go, but he was deeply concerned for his wife and how she would get along without him. It was "spoken" to me just as clearly and loudly as if he were awake and using his voice. 

Patient in ICU

Mind you, I was not in the habit of telecommunicating with comatose patient---nor did I believe it was even possible---but I know what I "heard" and was compelled to provide comfort the same way. As I filled the last tube, I "told" him his wife would be surrounded and supported by his loving family. That it would be hard, but seeing him suffer was hard, too. Then I got out of there as fast as I could. 

"That was really weird," I thought as I hurried back to the lab. 

Less than five minutes later, while running his CBC and chemistries, I heard a sound unlike any sound I'd ever heard in the lab. I had worked there long enough to know every noise in the small lab, but this was new. It sounded distinctly like a gust of wind blowing through the air above me. Moments later, I heard the urgent voice of the ICU nurse come over the intercom: "Code Blue in ICU."
     I knew the patient with whom I had just conversed in such a strange and spontaneous way had passed. I responded to the code anyway, but it was futile. He had let go.

I've only told a few people about this, and now you. Not everyone would understand what I was so strangely compelled to do. But so that you may know you are where you are for a reason, I think sharing this story is an important risk.

Fast forward about 12 years. I'm working at another small hospital lab, still miserable and feeling trapped. The phone rings; lab work in ER. I grabbed a phlebotomy tray that belonged to Sally, one of our day-shift phlebotomists. When I got to the patient's gurney and opened up Sally’s box, she had taped a card inside the cover, a request that told me exactly why I had been brought to the bedside of the dying patient so many years earlier.

“Lord, make me so sensitive to the needs of those around me that I never fail to know when they’re hurting or afraid; or when they’re simply crying out for someone’s touch to ease their loneliness… Let me love so much that my first thought is of others and my last thought is of me.”

“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2

Whatever higher power you believe in, my message is the same: if you think for one minute that you occupy the position you have at work coincidentally, you are not giving yourself credit for the gifts that have been bestowed upon you by a higher authority.

High Wire Artist

Know this: you possess gifts for which there has been assigned a purpose, a purpose that is real, significant, and without which others would not be moved as they should be. You are not in healthcare by some accident, some quirk of nature, some random happenstance. You are in healthcare because of what you bring to healthcare.

Consider that perhaps you haven't been merely hired into your position, you've been ordained. Ordained to bring those gifts to somebody, a patient, a visitor, or a co-worker. You might be the only pleasant person they encounter; the smile that brings them hope; a gentle touch that lingers long after you have left the room; the only person who treats them like they are family.

The multitude of events that have occurred throughout the years to bring you to the position you now occupy have all been carefully orchestrated to put you in the right place at the right time to make a difference in someone’s life, or many people’s lives. As much as you might despise some aspects of your work, you don’t have a job; you have a job to do. And it goes way beyond drawing blood.

It’s part of the plan. A plan that can show you how short life really is; a plan that shows you how easy it is to be indifferent, but asks you not to be; a plan that challenges you to leave a lasting impression of love, kindness and compassion.

You’ve elevated phlebotomy to high art when you realize that phlebotomy is more than a procedure. It’s a profession; and it goes beyond performing the procedure properly. There are certificates for that; but the proof that you are a professional in every other sense rests within those who you encounter every day and the lasting impression you make.

I challenge you to relentlessly pursue perfection; to reach that higher plateau where nothing interferes with your pursuit of the perfect venipuncture; to inspire others to think and act outwardly toward the patient and the ultimate good they can bring to every encounter instead of inwardly to themselves; to make not only phlebotomy their expression of high art, but their lives as well. 

You are where you are because you have a contribution to make that you could not otherwise make if you were somewhere else. Make it.

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This is the most beautiful writing you have ever done! Thank you for sharing these sentiments and your wonderful experience!

Sabrina Whitt, 12/24/2021 13:43:32

Phlebotomist/Medical Assistant

When I would go into ICU and the patient would be in either a medical coma or from a head trauma I would always talk to them,and let them know what I'm doing. I've even told them about the weather, the date and always prayed for them before leaving. I e had several patients when they were finally awake tell me, they remembered my voice and things I said. I had one guy who had tried several times to commit suicide, his last try was with Cyanide. I had to draw him several times and would always encourage him in the Lord. He told me he remembered me when he awoke. He said he had hope for the first time in years. We need to be open to speaking life and hope. Some Phlebs treat patients like they are just an arm forgetting what they might be going through, it makes me sad to hear some of them talk. Maybe if they have zero empathy it's time to step away from patient contact.

Robin, 12/24/2021 13:43:40

Clinical Lab Assistant

NO-ONE elevates & motivates phlebotomists the way you do ! I have asked my supervisors to make your articles mandatory to read ! I most certainly quoted you to the students when I was teaching and as a practicing Muslim - I share your views and passion for others and putting those sick & dying before my frustration with policies , management and all the other not so unimportant daily stuff ! Thank you and may God bless you ten fold for all of your hard work throughout these past years ! Know that you are followed and emulated by a few of us near and far !

Maryam Arnaut , 12/25/2021 10:17:38

Wow ! this is profound words

Professionalism! Phlebotomy is not for everyone however those who do the job do it because they love it

It precise, detailed and patients lives depend on the result So learn all you can about a Good Draw don't take shortcuts, be proud of what you do Where would the health service be without phlebotomists

Happy xmas to you and all your family

wini potter, 12/26/2021 05:11:47

Exactly what I needed to hear

It has been a rough road in blood drawing since Covid began. Thank you for this message of hope. I had seriously thought of leaving health care completely until I read this post. I now realize I am exactly where God wants me to be. Dennis you have inspired me to continue to keep giving of myself and not be as selfish as I have been weary of the fight.

Laura, 12/27/2021 04:14:51


Thank you, Laura, Wini Maryam, Robin and Sabrina! I am so humbled by your comments and testimonials. Words cannot express my gratitude for your kind words.

Dennis Ernst, 12/27/2021 12:52:23

Sparrow Ionia Phlebotomist

Wonderful read. I don’t currently hate my job but many times throughout the pandemic I have wondered if I should leave the field for something less stressful. I had a Chemo patient that I drew weekly come into my ER after a bad fall. She was scared and crying in pain. I immediately recognized her and said some words to give her comfort. All of a sudden I was the most important person in that room. Not the Doctor, not the Nurse. Me. She grabbed my hand and immediately felt better that I was there. I knew right then that there was a reason I was still doing what I was doing and not going anywhere soon. ❤️

Barb Kosten, 12/27/2021 13:15:56

No such thing as coincidence, no such thing as luck.

You're the best.

Katinka, 12/30/2021 12:45:19

Happy New Year

On this New Years Eve from our house to yours I wish you Good Health (and everything else will fall into place) and a very happy new year

Your are the best teacher ever

wini, 12/31/2021 15:46:35

Phlebotomy Coordinator

Thank you for that Dennis! To quote meatloaf, “You took the words right out of my mouth”. That article was spot on, no holds barred, hands down, exactly how I feel. Thank you Dennis, for what you do for phlebotomy profession. Thank you, for answering that call, and each and every small voice that led you to where you are. I felt every word as if they were my own words coming off the page. This is exactly what I needed to begin my day, and my overall journey with GetLabs. I am starting the process of hiring new phlebotomists, and this inspirational arrival today will become apart of how I hire. You have inspired me today in so many ways. You have made yourself vulnerable to so many, by showing your faith in God, which alone speaks volumes. You are my new hero! Thank you for being who you are and showing it to us.

Jonathan Dobler, 01/05/2022 09:12:12

Thank you, Jonathan

Thank you, Jonathan, for brightening my day in return. You are a gift to Getlabs, and to me.

Dennis Ernst, 01/05/2022 13:57:22

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