Phlebotomist grateful for special skill

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2006 Healthcare Hero
Barbara Sampson

When a child walks into Barbara Samson's office she has a little explaining to do. Her patients are often reluctant and with good reason. Samson is a phlebotomist, or someone who draws blood, and she is often confronted with fear from her patients.

"If you tell them the blood is the biggest tattletale, they usually understand," she said.

Samson works at a satellite office for Oswego Hospital performing blood drawings and other tests. She has worked for Oswego Health since 1999 and is completely dedicated to her line of work. "People think I'm crazy, but I love it," she said.

Her first job in the medical field was as a medical assistant. She once worked with physicians and chiropractors. During her training she did a short unit on phlebotomy. She drew blood from her instructor and although she didn't get any blood, the instructor could detect her talent. She then went to work nights at Pontiac Nursing Home and during her shift she took to talking to her staff phlebotomist.

She soon decided that phlebotomy was right up her alley. Later she pursued and received her professional training from the Stratford School in Syracuse with concentration on phlebotomy. "It was just something that piqued my interest," she said.

Although Samson is slightly needle-shy herself, she has no problem drawing off her patients.
Samson's career isn't limited to drawing blood. She also performs glucose tolerance tests, finger pricking and does a lot of her own result checking and secretarial work. Although this is more than a basic phlebotomist usually does, she wouldn't have it any other way. "That makes it better because I work a lot closer with the people," she said.

Samson deals with patients young and old and with various needle phobias.To her, the most important part of her job is making her patients comfortable while in her care. This is a big undertaking for someone who approaches all her patients with a needle in hand.

She says that she puts herself in her patient's shoes and works to understand their fears. She then evaluates what is best for each individual. "I take it from my own experience," she said. "I can't watch myself getting stuck. I can sympathize with them."

Sticking patients is what her job is all about but both Samson and her patients know she has a knack for her trade. She thinks that she has one person to thank. "I think to be able to do phlebotomy the way I do is a gift and I'm grateful for it," she said. "I thank God every day. I believe God gave me the ability to draw."

Whatever force it is, Samson's patients have an equally good reason to be thankful. "A lot of times I draw someone and they say they didn't even feel it," she said.

Helping her patients is her No. 1 priority. The healthcare she provides is only a small piece of the medical puzzle, but Samson is more than happy to be providing it. One of her favorite parts of her jobs is putting her patients at ease. "I know I'm helping someone in my small way," said Samson. "Just knowing that one of your patients doesn't have cancer or has mono and can start treating it is rewarding."

Outside of her office, Samson brings her job skills into the rest of her life. She has been involved with the Boy Scouts of America for over 20 years, where she teaches first aid to scouts. It's on organization that she feels very strongly about. "It's one of the few places left where you can learn morals and skills," she said. "You find friends and mentors in scouting. It's an awesome program."

Samson also takes part in educating people in the medical field. She works with the Oswego High School's New Vision program, which guides aspiring medical professionals. She also allows phlebotomists in training to come into her office and study her techniques. Educating future generations of phlebotomists in important to her. "I love to teach," she said. "It's good for students to watch and be taught different techniques to make their job as efficient as possible."

She isn't afraid to bring her skills out of the office to make house calls. One of her personal career highlights involved a patient that was confined to home and was suffering from various problems including the removal of one her lungs. No one could draw blood from the woman and the repeated attempts were bringing her down. Samson's head nurse asked her if she could do a house call and try to draw blood from the weak woman. Samson was successful on her first try and in doing so helped the woman and her husband in her own small way. Now that patient comes to Samson for all her blood work needs. "It was such a relief to her and her husband," she said. "It was nice to be able to go in and just get the blood."

Being a person her patients can talk and relate to means a lot to Samson. "I've worked hard perfecting my ability to draw and still be a person patients want to see," she said. "The most important person is the patient in my chair."

Outside of the medical field Samson is involved with her church, the Believers Chapel Central, where she is a childcare provider and a Sunday school helper. She also enjoys reading and traveling. She and her family have been to Ireland three times and one day they she hope to move to that country. She also incorporates her hobby of photography into her travel.

Samson lives in Oswego with her husband Grenville and their four children: Amanda, Erin, John and Colin.