Tessa House is an AS2 phlebotomist at Memorial Blood Centers in St. Paul.
“I always say a good phlebotomist knows when to walk away,” Tessa House said. “Phlebotomists have a lot of pride. You say you have a hard vein, it’s ‘challenge accepted.’ Then you take the challenge and bruise the vein.”
In four years as a phlebotomist, House has become a connoisseur of veins. “The ones on the side of the arm move a lot easier. You can’t go deep. You have to put the needle in at a 10-degree angle. With really muscly guys, you have to do a scooplike motion, otherwise you’re going to hit the muscle. Some people have tiny veins — have to hit them dead on. There are really deep veins, where you don’t think that much of a needle should go in. And everyone loves the wiggly ones that move from side to side,” she said.
House was introduced to phlebotomy at Everest College, where it was part of her training as a medical assistant. After graduation she worked in group homes for a while, but moved into phlebotomy full-time because it was less physically demanding. She started at a plasma center. Then, she said, a friend got a job at Memorial Blood Centers. “She loved the company, so I came here.” Of her current position House said, “You just get to hang out with people all day.”
In fact, House has moved quickly through the ranks in her two years with MBC. Like all new hires, she went through a 10- to 12-week training program, with two weeks in the classroom followed by two weeks of hands-on experience. After learning to do intake interviews, she began as a CS1, drawing whole blood cells from one donor. Then she became a CS2, able to work with two donors at a time. As an AS1, she learned to operate the machine that draws a double unit of red blood cells. Most recently, as an AS2, she has learned to draw platelets and work with stem cell donors.
“I like to do everything because there’s a variety. Everybody has a different story of why they’re donating,” House said.
In addition to working with a range of donations, House has worked with a range of donors, at the various MBC centers as well as in vans and mobiles. “High schools are very high-paced,” she said. Corporate blood drives have the advantage of giveaway items and free food. A favorite event was a “bloodiest 50th birthday bash” with a zombie theme. “People invite us to participate in the activities. It can be really fun,” House said.
What’s your favorite piece of equipment?
The Trima — it’s really cool. We got it for plasma, but it can do red cells, platelets, plasma, or any combination of the three at one time. We strive for getting people into the right kind of donation.
Where will your career go from here?
I hopefully will start at St Kate’s in the fall. I’m steering toward a four-year biology degree and then right into a physician’s assistant program.
Are there skills from your phlebotomy experience that will transfer?
Customer service. Data entry. Attention to details. Time management. From where I was two years ago to now I’ve gained so much responsibility. I’m grateful for it. I’m more organized. I’m not so much of a procrastinator. It’s nice when things you learn on the job transfer to home.
Photo Credit: Tom Witta