Interview conducted by Communications Administrator Lauren Hicks
Felicia Dollinger currently works as a full-time MLT in the Hamilton General Hospital’s transfusion lab. After completing her undergraduate degree from Brock University in St. Catharines, she applied to the Michener Institute in Toronto for their medical laboratory science program. Once Felicia graduated from the program, she started working part-time in the Hamilton General’s core lab and held another part-time position at a core lab in Niagara Falls. In November of 2018, she switched to full-time in the General’s transfusion lab. She still holds a casual position in The Falls.
WHAT DO YOUR CURRENT DUTIES INCLUDE?
A typical day-to-day would just be testing blood samples. We, at the General, do the pre-op specimens for the region so we do all the ABO typing for all patients. We run batches of samples and issue out blood product for typical ORs. Then there are other daily jobs we have so for example; doing the OR list, doing the blood order, inventory of blood, and that kind of stuff.
From a transfusion medicine point of view, I would say in a trauma hospital you need to be a quick thinker. You need to act fast and stay calm because things can go from 0 to 100 in a second. You also need time management skills in that sense.
WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN YOUR ROLE?
It would definitely be a staffing problem. Not having enough sometimes and then you are scrambling to do more work in less time. I guess personality conflicts and new staff. We have had a huge turnover – like I am fairly new and there has been 7 other people hired under me right now and I haven’t even been here a year. And for the senior staff you are looking at training but also your daily routine. So just trying to get the new people competent. You feel bad when you are being trained because, you know, they are running around like chickens with their heads cut off and you can’t do anything because you don’t know how yet. That would be a big thing.
It is also hard to learn to work with different age groups – it is really challenging. So going from the part-time core lab jobs I had, to working here in transfusion, it worried me. Like who would I be working with? What is the age demographic like? What is the population like? Is it mostly girls or boys? And so I just showed up. It’s really nice actually because there is a group of us who are younger and then there is the group who is older.
WHAT DOES THE IDEAL FUTURE OF THE MEDICAL LAB FIELD LOOK LIKE TO YOU?
In the years to come what would it look like? I mean, for me being a new graduate and coming into this profession there is already so much automation. In school you learn all of the basic manual testing and then you come into the lab and there are all of these huge analyzers and you’re like “woah. What do I do with that?” With time I can only see things being more and more and more automated. Which it also super scary because I don’t want to lose my job. I know eventually people may be able to work from home. In microbiology, for example, they are saying that is a probable thing for the future. So now you can even select a colony from home on a computer being like “I want to test this and I want to know what this is.” I don’t know about transfusion – it is becoming more automated. There still are a lot of things that we have to manually do and manually think about so I mean they can’t really replace us but for sure some things have changed. I mean even now we have blood fridges. So a nurse could go up to a fridge, type the patients name in and if they have a valid group in-screen they could get blood if their antibody screen is negative. Like a vending machine for blood. I am sure as time goes on there will be more and more automation and less techs.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ADVICE TO A CURRENT STUDENT IN AN MLA/T OR MLT PROGRAM, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THEM?
Take any opportunity you can. For me being a new tech, things come up – like your promotional video, writing articles – anything. Jump on those opportunities because I have met amazing people over the span of a year. I have been an actual tech for just over a year now and I have met Michelle and Tania and all of these other people. I have been to conferences and I have spoken at a conference already and they want me to do another talk. So it’s really about taking those opportunities and doing it. Don’t think because you are a new tech or a new grad that you can’t do something. Even with students! I asked our coordinator if I could help with new students even though I am a new grad and they said absolutely. It kind of allows me to relate to the students and what they are going through and the program and giving them tips about the different tests (even things like how to study).