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Blood Bank Technology Specialist

Overview

Specialists in blood bank (SBBs) technology perform both routine and specialized tests in blood donor centers, transfusion services, reference laboratories and research facilities.  Their duties include:

  • Identifying blood types and antibodies
  • Testing blood for viruses that might be transmitted during transfusion
  • Investigating harmful responses of the body to blood transfusion
  • Supervising the collection, separation, delivery and storage of blood components
  • Supporting physicians and nurses in blood transfusion therapy

Although medical technologists and medical laboratory technicians also perform various blood tests, the blood bank technology specialist’s training enables him or her to perform specialized tests, such as those dealing with the study of blood and its immunities (immunohematology).

The American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) establishes standards for blood banks, transfusion services and cellular therapies, which promote the safety and quality of blood products used in hospitals and transfusion centers. SBBs use methodology that conforms to these internationally recognized standards.

Individuals certified as specialists in blood banking by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) are knowledgeable in all aspects of blood banking; transfusion medicine; hematopoietic, cellular and regenerative gene therapies; tissue transplantation; and molecular testing methods.

Specialists in blood bank technology demonstrate a superior level of technical proficiency and problem-solving ability in such areas as:

  • Testing for blood group antigens, compatibility and antibody identification
  • Investigating abnormalities such as hemolytic diseases of the newborn, hemolytic anemias and adverse reactions to transfusion
  • Supporting physicians in transfusion therapy for patients with coagulopathies (diseases affecting blood clotting), for example, or candidates for organ and cellular transplantation/therapy
  • Performing blood collection and processing, including selecting donors, collecting blood, typing blood and molecular testing
  • Performing viral marker testing to ensure patient safety
  • Managing patient blood

Accordingly, supervision, management and/or teaching make up a considerable part of their responsibilities.

SBBs are experts on variety of subjects, including regulatory and quality systems, genetics, immunology, blood groups, collection and storage of blood and components, donor processing, immune mechanisms, component therapy, transfusion of the newborn, complications of transfusion, general administration, personnel administration, education and automated data processing.

SBBs are expected to be good at problem solving and attention to detail since small differences can be crucial to a diagnosis. Manual dexterity and normal color vision are highly desirable, and with the widespread use of automated laboratory equipment, computer skills are important.

SBBs serve in many roles within the transfusion medicine field such as regulatory experts, technical/procedural advisors, laboratory administrators, quality assessors and managers, educators for technical and scientific training in blood transfusion medicine and researchers in transfusion medicine. SBBs carry out all operations of the blood bank, from routine testing to the most advanced procedures. Most SBBs work as technical supervisors and laboratory managers and oversee reference laboratories. They may also be involved in research, teaching or consulting. Many SBBs become transfusion safety officers and manage patient blood management programs in intra- and post-operative blood salvage and transfusion monitoring and organizations such as anemia clinics.

Working Conditions

Blood bank technology specialists are employed by blood donor centers, transfusion services, reference laboratories, organ and tissue transplantation laboratories and blood bank equipment suppliers.

Most work normal business hours, although night and weekend shifts are not uncommon.

Academic Requirements

To become a blood bank technology specialist, you must complete a bachelor’s degree with a major in biology, microbiology or another biological or physical science and certification as a medical technologist.

After college, enroll in an accredited, one-year specialized training program for certification or pursue a master’s degree in blood bank technology, also known as immunohematology, for 24 months. Search for schools that provide training for this career.

Those programs include the study of:

  • Basic and advanced serological techniques
  • Blood donation and product manufacturing
  • Apheresis
  • Viral disease testing
  • Genetics
  • Transfusion medicine practices
  • Component therapy
  • Quality systems and process control
  • Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) and transplantation
  • Education and research
  • Management
  • Blood bank administration
  • Other relevant topics

SBBs must pass a certification exam given by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists and meet continuing education requirements. Some states require SBBs to be licensed.