Encounters with Medical Students Can Be Upsetting

Tito Oye avatar

by Tito Oye |

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blood transfusions

My hospital also is a university full of medical students. Trainees follow their supervisors from patient to patient to get a sense of how their work applies to real-life situations. Nine times out of 10, I love interacting with students. I love to discover the person behind the uniform, and I am always interested in learning about their motivations. 

Occasionally, however, my encounters with medical students are unpleasant.

For example, last November, an encounter with a trainee nurse deeply upset me. I was preparing for my monthly red cell exchange. The nurse’s supervisor let her find a vein and insert the needles. Unfortunately, she made a mistake and missed the vein. Her supervisor had to complete another painful injection.

I left with another scar on my arm, which may seem insignificant. However, my scars do not have time to heal and fade because of the frequency of the procedure. The buildup of scar tissue makes me feel self-conscious. I scar so easily. Her mistake honestly bought tears to my eyes. 

I explained how I felt to one of my friends. He reminded me that nurses must practice and get it right for the next person. I still felt down, but I got over it eventually.

I write this column mid-transfusion with similar feelings of anger and frustration. The same thing happened with the same nurse. Fair enough, she needs to learn, but I don’t intend to let her practice on me again. If I can avoid the feelings associated with her mistakes, I will. Next time, I will request that her supervisor prepare me for the transfusion. 

It is hard. The nurse is a lovely person. But the consequences I must face are long-lasting, so I have decided to put my feelings first.

Do you mind when medical students practice on you? I would love to know whether you have had similar experiences. What would you do in this situation? Let me know in the comments below.


Note: Sickle Cell Anemia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Anemia News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell anemia.


Varaprasad avatar


Yes of course, I also many times suffered with trainee nurses, but I'm praying God to find out medicine soon for sickle cell disease🙏🙏

Keith Quirolo, MD avatar

Keith Quirolo, MD

Dear Tito,
As a sickle cell physician (And previously a registered nurse) these are my thoughts:
Training Is an essential part of health care education. All health care providers started out with zero experience and skills.
However, you have every right to refuse treatment by a student or professional in training. Your experience is not unique. It is stressful for you and for the student who is asked to perform a procedure and fails. I was the director of an apheresis program and know how difficult access is. We rarely had trainees start intravenous lines unless they were being trained as an apheresis nurse.

Tito Oye avatar

Tito Oye

I find it can feel very awkward when refusing treatment from a student/professional in training. How would you suppose we go about it?

Simone UwanMD avatar

Simone UwanMD

Tito thank you for your story about medical students. As is SickleCell warrior who is a medical doctor I can tell you that sometimes we can be so bent on learning that we forget the story behind the person. As a patient I have certainly endured many of what you are talking about. Recently I had to get a blood exchange transfusion and needed a catheter placed to have it done. The resident came with an intern and said the intern would be placing the catheter. Knowing this is the only way they learn, and that I learned this way myself, I gave him a chance. The net result was a cut over my vein so large that the blood was pouring down my thigh. I lost almost a pint of blood that day and needed them to add an extra unit of red blood cells to compensate for the massive amount of blood that soaked my bed after the procedure.

The next month I came for that procedure there was yet another intern and resident team . This time, I simply told them that while I am happy to participate once for any one procedure for the betterment of their skills, I should not be their target audience! I have too many things going that are difficult, to add their mistakes to the list. So I insisted that the senior resident do the procedure instead. It was awkward because the intern was standing right there, and kept reassuring me that he had done the procedure many times before. But I had to stand firm. A nurse in practice should never be practicing twice on the same patient, especially a Sickle Cell patient, when our veins are so delicate! We have to be protective! So, there is nothing wrong with you speaking up for yourself. All the best in your future exchanges! And thanks for the work you do! :-)


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