How to Become a Blood Bank Technology Specialist


Blood bank technology specialists are medical scientists who collect, test and analyze blood from donors, making sure the blood is safe for patients who need a blood transfusion. These specialists operate behind the scenes and yet play a vital role is saving lives, as they make certain the blood is free of disease and other contaminants. They must also determine the blood type and ensure that the blood samples are label properly.

Blood bank specialists must use complicated tools and equipment, but they’re allowed no room for error, as lives might be at stake. They must follow the strict standards set up by the American Association of Blood Banks. They must be experts in blood banking, tissue transplantation, transfusion medicine, and in cellular, gene and hematopoietic therapies.

These specialists can work in any of several laboratory settings, such as transfusion centers, research facilities, reference laboratories, university blood banks, community blood banks and hospitals.

Job Duties

Blood bank technology specialists collect and test blood samples for hepatitis, HIV and other dangerous diseases, while also identifying blood types and antibodies. Specialists must separate blood into its component parts, like plasma and red and white blood cells. They investigate any harmful reactions a patient’s body might have toward a blood transfusion, and they test and identify blood group antigens. Specialists also investigate abnormalities like anemia and hemolytic disease of newborn babies. They must keep careful records of any and all findings on a computer, and must be adept at using cell counters and microscopes. They also perform viral marker testing for patients.

Blood bank specialists supervise the collection, testing, separation, labeling, delivery and storage of blood samples, and sometimes serve as an administrator for these tasks. Specialists often support physicians in transfusion therapy for patients suffering from diseases that affect the ability of blood to clot, as well as in other special cases. Specialists also screen potential blood donors to ascertain whether they might have a medical history that could harm transfusion patients. These specialists often serve as technical advisors to physicians, teachers and researchers, and they sometimes teach or perform research themselves.

Most blood specialists work during normal business hours, though some work weekends or night shifts. In natural disasters or other emergencies, specialists can expect to be pressed into duty for extended periods. Specialists sometimes are required to wear protective masks, gloves or goggles. They might also be asked to train or supervise students or technicians.

Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website lumps blood bank technologists into a group called “Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists.” According to BLS projections, the job rate for this group will grow by about 11% from 2010-2020, which is close to the national average for all jobs. The BLS site states that the main reason for this growth is that the nation’s increasing number of elderly people will require a greater need for the diagnosis of medical conditions.

Salary Prospects

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, recognized as a national authority for salaries, the median pay in 2010 for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians was $46,680 per year or $22.44 per hour. But, since technologists earn significantly more than technicians, their actual rates are higher than these numbers. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Educational Programs reports that the average salary for a bench blood bank technologist was about $50,000; for supervisors, $60,000 and for managers, $70,000.

The possibilities for advancement opportunities include moving into teaching, research facilities or quality assurance roles.

Educational Requirements

Although the educational requirements vary from state-to-state, all prospective blood bank technologists need to acquire a bachelor’s degree, preferably in biology, chemistry or math. Graduates will then normally need to get certified in medical technology. After that, the prospective technologist must normally undergo a year-long specialist in blood bank technology (SBB) program or a two-year, combined SBB/master’s degree program in order to attain certification.

The curriculum for an SBB program varies somewhat with each educational program, depending upon the educational coordinator of the program. Normally, the curriculum consists of subjects like serological techniques, unsuitable blood donators, apheresis, viral disease testing, immunology, genetics, blood storage, component therapy, transfusions and blood bank administration.

Some of the courses that only involve theory can be completed online, but not those that involve hands-on applications. Training programs typically provide an abundance of time in an on-site medical laboratory, where applicants can learn the necessary techniques under the direct supervision of a licensed blood bank technologist.

Before applying for a program, make certain it is accredited by either the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs (CAAHEP).

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