Since our program started, we have spent seven months in the student lab taking didactic courses, practicing lab techniques, and learning as much as we possibly could. Now, we are finally moving out of the Stabile lab at Mayo Clinic that has become our home and into several other clinical labs for our clinical rotations. Some of our classmates have rotated through the highly automated chemistry lab, while others have been doing manual cell differentials in the hematology lab, just to name a few.
However, eight of us have been taking a course that is unique among all of the clinical rotations we will do. Our immunohematology rotation, otherwise known as "blood banking" or "transfusion medicine," is a mix of student lab work, online lessons, and clinical rotations.
This hybrid style class makes it the perfect transition into the new world of lab rotations.
In the student lab, we practiced the detailed techniques used to determine a patient’s blood type, not only including ABO, but all of the other possible antigens as well. While lesser known, there are many antigens on red blood cells that play an important role when giving patients blood products. Taking these into consideration, and the possibility of patients' immune systems to react to them, we learned how to find a patient in need of blood a unit matched specifically to him or her.
Finally, last week was an especially exciting week for us. We left the student lab behind in exchange for rotations through donor services and the components lab. In donor services, we had the opportunity to observe and work with some very special patients. Unlike most samples we work with, collected from patients who are ill and looking for our help, these samples were collected from healthy volunteers who were looking to help others. After watching the collection of the blood products in donor services, we were able to move on to the components lab where the samples were processed. Again, this was a special experience because we acted as a go-between for two patients who will never meet but will have a large impact on one another.
These rotations were exciting because we were able to see firsthand just how important the work we do in the lab is.
We’re only five weeks into our clinical rotations, but I can’t wait to see what else we can learn and what other experiences lie between us and graduation.