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Professional work in the outpatient clinic

Dec. 30, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

As long ago as my first annual flight physical in the Air Force, I have amassed an extensive collection of bright red memories of medical technicians "poking" around my arm trying to find a blood supply. The years since have not improved on this procedure one iota. It seems to be the same scenario with every medical visit. So when the time came for my annual check-up last November, once again I had those recurring visions of the latest lab graduate drawing my blood. That is until I met Karen Hawthorne at St Mary's Medical Center Outpatient Lab.

Hawthorne has more than 15 years of working in the medical profession. It shows in her professional demeanor, her smile and her treatment toward patients. She really shines when zeroing in on a vein with instant results. Don't take my word for it, here's what her supervisor, Sandra Rayburn, had to say.

"Karen Hawthorne is a very conscientious worker," said Rayburn. "She is loyal, dependable and displays a great deal of compassion toward her patients. In fact, the complete outpatient lab has received numerous accolades for their professional performance. They all make my job a lot easier."

Something else that makes the job easier are the neverending safety requirements throughout the medical profession. Hawthorne says her job is safer now than it was just a few years back, not only for her but the patient as well. All because of the increased emphasis on safety.

"I used to work at River Valley Hospital in Ironton," said Hawthorne. "After being there four years they closed the place up, and I came to work here. At first I hated losing my job, I guess anyone would. But being here, working with this wonderful group of girls is something I wouldn't trade for anything now. I've been working with them for over 10 years now. They're like family."

Patients who need the services of this outpatient lab on a recurring basis often request Hawthorne by name to attend to their medical needs. This is again further testament of her professional treatment.

"We call Karen (Hawthorne) the 'Paper Queen,'" said co-worker Paige Mallory. "In addition to being a dedicated diligent worker, she is possessed with superior organizational skills. No job is complete for Karen until all paper work associated with each patient is properly filed away to her satisfaction."

While another co-worker, Cathy Mayes, had similar remarks for Hawthorne's work performance, she did offer a few additional compliments.

"We all tell Karen that she displays the symptoms of being possessed with borderline obsessive-compulsive disorder," jokes Mayes. "Her meticulous organizational skills are so intense that she keeps track of all our recertification and office testing. Long before anything comes due, she begins reminding us."

While most days in the outpatient clinic run according to established procedures, there are those few exceptions that create a totally different atmosphere. Like the time a young adolescent boy came to have blood taken. Seems his parents neglected to tell their son what was about to happen, and when he discovered what was being planned the calmness of the day quickly disappeared.

"He begin screaming and kicking," said Hawthorne. "He tore the window curtains right off the wall as he kicked with his legs and swung his arms about. He was really a true test of our profession. We finally got the blood taken, but it was a uniform effort of everyone in the office to get it done. And once it was over, the child became completely normal again. Then on the other extreme, we had this cute little six year-old girl who came in with her mother to have blood taken. She just gets on her mother's lap and holds out her arm"

Hawthorne went on to say they have had people faint at the sight of a needle, others throw up, and some even develop hypertension. But with a little quiet rest, some cold damp towels on their forehead and a drink of orange juice, they all manage to get through it.

Hawthorne offered the following for those who come for outpatient work at St. Mary's.

"This job isn't normally stressful because we are all fully trained at what we do. But when people expect to be in and on their way in ten minutes, that's sometimes asking for too much. There are times when you can be next as soon as you walk into the office, but when we are busy, or with a patient that needs extra care, it does extend your waiting time."

It's also noteworthy to mention that because of Hawthorne's example of raising her standard of living by becoming trained in the health care profession, her two daughters have followed their mother's example. Both work in area medical institutions.

Aside from Hawthorne's job, she is a wife and the mother of three adult children. While her "baby" just turned 21, her 15-month-old grandson, Bentley, is the centerpiece in grandmother's heart.

So for now, my worries are over. I have finally located a professional who can locate and draw blood as it should be done -- painless and on the first attempt.

Clyde Beal is an area freelance writer wanting to hear from those who have many things to be thankful for. Write him at archie350@frontier.com.