By Jeanne du Plessis
What do talk show host Conan O’Brien and martial arts star Jackie Chan have in common? They both have a fear of needles. While not everybody is afraid of needles, it’s safe to say that not many of us like them either, but having blood drawn is a common medical procedure that we all have to go through at some stage.
The individual who draws the blood can make all the difference, particularly when patients are children, and this is where phlebotomy technicians come in.
Phlebotomy technicians are individuals who are trained to collect human specimens for laboratory testing, and often this involves drawing blood. A need arose in the medical field for specialists who could collect specimens for diagnostic purposes, and this need was filled by Ampath when they registered as an employer and training provider for phlebotomy technicians in 2006.
Angeline Seroke is a phlebotomy technician at the Ampath Olivedale Clinic. She lists her work duties as “drawing blood from patients, including babies, deciding what’s urgent and prioritising accordingly, following up on results and providing outstanding customer service, which is the most important part.”
Although drawing blood is one of the most common tasks of phlebotomy technicians, they also collect a variety of other human specimens for pathology including urine, stool, sputum, semen, saliva, sweat, nail clippings, hair and swabs. Specialised procedures such as a glucose tolerance test, TB skin testing and bleeding time tests are also performed.
While medical technologists and technicians analyse these specimens in the lab, it’s the phlebotomy technicians that work directly with the patients and put a name and face to a sample. Angeline describes the ideal phlebotomy technician as “a people’s person who is empathetic rather than sympathetic. You need to be assertive and able to work well under pressure.”
Enjoying working with people is crucial for a hands-on job such as this. People who come for medical tests often do so because they are ill, and consequently