HAWAII AT WORK
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Melanie Carroll is a certified phlebotomist, which means she is qualified to extract blood from patients for medical testing. Above, Carroll processes blood in preparation for testing. Her employer, Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii, has more than 60 patient service centers statewide.
Win, lose or draw blood
Melanie Carroll performs blood extraction and processing for one of Hawaii's leading medical labs
Melanie Carroll is an aspiring writer who fortunately likes her day job which actually pays the bills. Carroll is the senior laboratory assistant at Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii's patient service center at Pali Momi Tower in Pearlridge, where she works with three other employees in drawing blood from patients and preparing those samples for testing.
Title: Senior laboratory assistant
Job: Draws blood from medical patients and prepares it for testing
She eased her way in to the profession by first working with animals as a veterinary technician, then with humans for a company that conducts medical tests for insurance companies. As a writer, Carroll in January published a children's book, "When Buddy Met Mi," and had so much fun with it that she has gone back to school, to Windward Community College, to learn more about writing and publishing. Carroll, 29, is a graduate of Kalaheo High School and lives with her significant other, Sean Miles, in Kailua.
Question: What exactly do you do at Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii?
Answer: We care for patients as far as blood draw in our satellite and in the doctors' offices.
Q: And what does "blood draw" mean?
A: According to the tests that the doctor orders, we draw the amount of blood that corresponds with the tests.
Q: So you poke people with needles.
A: Yes. (Laughter) Yes. It's called venipuncture.
Q: Does it ever make you squeamish to have to poke people with a needle?
A: No. But sure, in the beginning, when you're learning. In the beginning, it's actually really scary. But it's something you get used to, and something you strive to get good at.
Q: How do you react when you have trouble finding a good vein and the patient is in pain?
A: Generally I just keep the patient calm, and the best thing is, I really take my time. There are strategies that can be taken, such as warming. We have heel warmers that we have for babies. We can apply that to an area on the arm. The warmth increases blood flow. Or we can just induce light pressure taps, which increase blood flow to the area.
Q: Anything else?
A: Mainly just, especially for hard patients, keeping them calm is important, and just taking your time.
Q: How long have you been with Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii?
A: I'll make four years in March
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Melanie Carroll carries a tray of vials filled with blood extracted from patients coming in to the Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii outlet at Pali Momi Tower in Pearlridge.
What were you doing before you joined this company?
A: I worked for EMSI (Examination Management Services Inc.); it was subcontracted to do medical examinations for life insurance companies.
Q: How did you learn extract blood from people?
A: I actually started off, prior to that (working for EMSI), as a veterinary technician, which requires being able to draw blood from animals.
Q: How long did you do that?
A: I did that for five or six years.
Q: About how many blood extractions do you have to do each day?
A: I would say around 20 to 30.
Q: What is the typical reason people are getting their blood drawn for testing?
A: Typical reason, routine for cholesterol, blood sugars ... Some people that are on medication, doctors require them to come in every few months to make sure that the medicines are reacting well with their bodies.
Q: But then you also work on testing the blood, don't you?
A: We actually do the blood processing; it's the step before blood testing.
Q: How much of your time is spent on that?
A: It depends on the particular test that's ordered. The blood itself, for most generalized tests, takes about a half an hour to clot, and then it's spun for about 10 minutes, and then, again, depending on the test that's being done, from that step we look at where is the blood going -- which laboratory, are there any special handling requirements, as far as does it need to be frozen, does it need to be put on ice or refrigerated. It all varies on the particular test and where the test is being done. So just that one tube for routine stuff could take us a minimum of 45 minutes.
Q: What kind of people do you see mostly, as patients?
A: I guess mostly they would be elderly. They frequently have more routine visits to their doctor.
Q: What about young children?
A: Yes, we do get quite a bit of walk-in patients that vary in age -- kids, young adults, but primarily elderly.
What kind of training or certificates did you have to have to get this job?
A: There is a phlebotomy course at Kapiolani Community College that I had taken, and from there you get your certification. The next step after your certification through KCC is you study for the national exam, and then you become nationally certified to practice.
Q: Who issues that certification?
A: The National Accrediting Agency is who I have my certification with.
Q: What do they do?
A: They regulate laboratory standards. They certify phlebotomists who work outside their own state.
Q: Did you always want to be in the medical field?
A: Yes. Something in the medical field, yes.
Q: But you started with animals.
A: Yes. (Laughter)
Q: How did that happen?
A: I'd always love animals since I was a kid, and I was always bringing them home.
Q: What was your first job in the field?
A: In the field of ...?
Q: Well, medical.
A: I was called a paramedical examiner when I was with EMSI.
Q: How long did you work with them?
A: I was with them for about 2 1/2 years.
Q: What kind of precautions do you have to take so as not to catch any diseases or whatever.
A: Your standard PEs (protective equipment) would be your gloves and a lab coat, for the blood draw, and for processing, we do have to have a face shield.
Q: How many other people do you work with?
A: I have actually three other girls in my patient service center.
Q: You're the supervisor then?
A: Yes-- well, they call it the senior of that particular location.
Q: Your location, is it located in the hospital (Kapiolani Medical Center at Pali Momi)?
A: We're in the medical office building (Pali Momi Tower), attached to the hospital. It has a walkway that connects the two.
Q: What is your schedule?
A: I work Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Q: Four days a week?
Q: But longer than 8 hours?
A: Yes, I work 10-hour days.
Q: Are you happy with your job? Do you plan on staying with it for awhile?
A: Definitely. I've got great girls I work with, really great clients (the physicians and their medical staffs), and fantastic patients that come in that I really look forward to seeing.