On July 15, 2019, David Caldwell, an employee at a Baltimore methadone clinic, was shot by a client demanding his dose. The shooter also injured another lab employee and a police officer, who are recovering, but Caldwell died later in a hospital.
In a Washington Post story, Caldwell, a sample collector and phlebotomist, was described by other clients as a “supportive, friendly man who always kept a bowl of hard candy out for those who came through.” Another patient “called Caldwell ‘personable’ and ‘a good spirit’ who made the awkward task of providing urine easier. When the [interviewed] man told Caldwell that he had been writing a book about addiction and recovery, the clinic worker bought the book for $10 to support him.”
Working within the blurred boundaries between the clinical laboratory, drug treatment operations and the criminal justice system can be dangerous. If you are lucky, your facility has armed guards and metal detectors. If not, your protection is faith in the judge whose best assessment places individuals in your program, the workers who supervise their treatment, and the hope that the clients are mentally and physically on solid ground. You rely upon your professional demeanor and empathy to get through the uncomfortable situation of direct observation of urine specimen collection. And you might be doing that for little more than $25,000/year, depending on where you live.
For decades, many in the laboratory profession have bemoaned the lack of recognition for the work they do behind the scenes. The usual complaint is that the lab saves patients’ lives too and should be recognized along with doctors and nurses. Consider if you will, that David Caldwell also worked to save lives. In his role in a methadone clinic, he worked to save the lives of the drug-addicted by keeping them on a path to recovery or, in some cases, identifying when they stepped off the path. As a point of public safety, it should not go unrecognized that he might have saved your life in the process.