Drawing blood

AT WORK

LifeBridge lab technician Brigette McLendon is good at finding a vein

Working

October 03, 2007

Brigette McLendon

Phlebotomist technician

Quarry Lake, LifeBridge Health

Salary --$35,000

Age --37

Years on the job --Nine

How she got started --After working in a doctor's office as a receptionist, McLendon knew she wanted to remain in the medical field. She decided to take a six-month program offered through the Community College of Baltimore County's Catonsville campus to become a phlebotomist, someone who draws blood and other samples for medical testing or donation. After being certified through the National Healthcareer Association, she worked in a doctor's office and later at two local hospitals before starting her job at the Quarry Lake laboratory. McLendon must renew her certification every two years, which she can do through an online test.

Typical day --McLendon works 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. five days a week. The lab employs one other phlebotomist. McLendon draws an average of three tubes of blood each from about 50 people a day. The lab works on a walk-in basis and McLendon must first register the person by getting insurance information. Blood is not the only thing the lab collects - other fluid specimens are often obtained. "That's not my favorite."

How long it took to get comfortable drawing blood --1.5 years

Finding the vein --"I could probably do this with my eyes closed. But I don't." That wasn't always the case: She found it difficult to find good veins in hospital patients because they often already had several IVs hooked up to the easier-to-find veins. "They were sick and in intensive care with IVs everywhere. You had to really work hard to find a good vein."

Putting them at ease --"People are very nervous. I just joke with them and entertain them."

Children --For the most part the youngest children McLendon draws blood from at the lab are toddlers. While she said they don't exactly sit still and parents are understandably nervous, she finds it easy to get a blood sample from a typical young patient.

Training --When McLendon took her certification classes, the students practiced on one another. "So when people say I don't know what it feels like, yes I do."

Cleanliness --Needles are used once, then discarded.

The good --Meeting different people. "I hear a lot of stories all day long, especially from the older people. I must have that face where they want to tell me their business."

The bad --"Not everyone is nice. Some people are just nasty no matter what you try to do to accommodate them. But out of the 50 that come through here in a day, maybe two are like that."

Philosophy on the job --"Life is too short, so I try not to take things too seriously."

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun

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