Leading on the front lines

School Leadership often means you have to take one for the team...sometimes, even two. Right before lunch, today, I had a Medical Assisting student walk into my office and ask if I would let a student draw a vile of blood from my arm for practice. I try to give blood every 8 weeks, so I’m not new to the idea of someone sticking a needle in my arm, so I said, “Sure.”

When I reported to the room, the students acted a bit shocked that I showed up. I found out that these student were practically brand new at drawing blood from real patients...almost all of their practice up to that point had been done on the simulator arms. Now, as I thought about it, this experience was new for me. The Blood Bus crew was very experienced...they had probably drawn blood from hundreds, if not thousands, of patients. Oh well...someone has to be the guinea pig...

The student looked over my arms for a good vein...I was squeezing the stress ball for real, but it wasn’t helping. I could tell the student was nervous—this was only her 2nd time trying on a real arm. The teacher was describing how to do it, what angle to insert the needle at, what to do once you “feel” the needle enter the vein, and how to hold still once you are in. It was certainly instructional, but it was a lot more information than I wanted to hear.

Apparently, the student stuck my vein, but then went a little too far and went out the backside...right through it. The student pulled out the needle and seemed a bit defeated. I told her to try the other arm. The class seemed a bit surprised I would offer up my other arm after a failed attempt, but it was the right thing to do for the student. Once she saw I didn’t care if she failed, I think that may have helped her not be so nervous.

The teacher and student went through the whole instructional process again—standing here, poking in this direction, at this angle, stopping once you feel it, not switching hands, holding still...and then the blood started to flow. Oh the joy on the student’s face...it was worth taking a risk on a 2nd try.

The students looked at my blood...it was real dark red. They asked me if I hadn’t drunk much water that day. I hadn’t...I forgot my bottles of water today. Apparently, your blood turns darker if you are getting dehydrated? Then they put my vile of blood in the centrifuge to separate the red blood cells from the white blood cells...you can see the two next to each other...on top of the white blood cells is the serum, which looks a little more yellower. I was learning new stuff right along with the students.

In the end, it was neat to see these future medical assistants—maybe even future nurses and doctors—at the very beginning of their careers, practicing and fighting through their initial nerves in order to find success and confidence. They liked having me as their patient, which probably means I’ll become a regular😜. That’s what leadership is all about...living on the front lines and taking risks with your students and teachers. It’s all about Developing Minds and Making Memories. As a side note, it was the first time I ever walked away from giving blood with a bandaid on both arms😊.


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