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Immunohematology Technologist


Description

Since all parts of the body are interconnected, some scientists and technologists couple the study of two disciplines with the larger field of analysis. Immunohematology technologists study the branch of immunology that deals with properties of blood. As immunology is the study of the immune system and its responses to infectious organisms and other foreign materials, hematology consists of the study of disorders of the blood (white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets) and coagulation mechanisms of blood. Blood disorders significantly harm our immune systems and therefore fit into the field of immunohematology.

Immunohematology technologists study the immunology of the blood and blood forming organs. This includes the study of genetics, biochemistry, antigens, and cell surface receptors found on red cells, white cells and platelets. A large component of the immunohematology technologist's career is studying blood transfusions and transplantation.

They deal with the cellular and coagulation elements of the blood cells, which are harmed or attacked by an unhealthy immune system. They work in the laboratory to try and determine abnormalities in the blood of patients and in donors' blood as well. Immunohematology technologist help find blood donors, prepare and use blood components, store blood safely at the right temperature, and encourage people to always give blood. They also study blood typing to determine why people are born with different types of blood.

Immunohematology technologists screen and identify the blood types of donor and patient blood specimens in preparation for blood transfusions. This process can be especially hard for people with very rare blood types. Patients who require blood transfusions generally fall into two categories: those who require transfusions resulting from acute blood loss that might be associated with surgery; or those requiring chronic transfusions associated with treatment for chronic anemias, chemotherapy, or bone marrow transplant. Again, if a patient with a condition listed above cannot find a blood donor, their lives could be in great danger. Immunohematologists save lives everyday through transfusing blood. Once the immunohematolgy technologist finds a compatible (cross-match) donor, they must test the donor's blood for infectious diseases. If the donor's blood is clean (negative results), the blood is transfused to the needy patient.

Immunohematology technologists also assess tissue compatibility which is necessary for transplantation. They use an interesting technique called apheresis. They withdraw a patient's blood, treat the blood, and then return it to the patient. This procedure is often safer for the patient than treatment of the whole body.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Immunohematology technologists need an innate interest in natural phenomena and the scientific of the blood system and immune system. They should have good manual dexterity for transferring micro-organisms from one culture medium to another without contaminating samples, and the ability to pay close attention to details. Immunohematology technologists are usually well organized, enjoy working in the laboratory with equipment and performing tasks which require precision.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Visually inspect blood in specimen tubes for hemolysis
  • Separate red cells from serum and test separated serum to detect presence of antibodies
  • Interpret reactions observed to devise experiments and suggest techniques that will resolve a patient's blood problems
  • Combine known and unknown cells with serum in test tubes and select reagents for individual tests to make visible reactions of such tests
  • Process various combinations in centrifuge and examine samples under a microscope to identify evidence of agglutination or hemolysis
  • Repeat and vary tests until a normal suspension of reagents, serum and red cells is attained
  • Interpret results obtained from tests and identify specific antibodies
  • Write blood specifications to meet a patient's need on basis of test results and uses knowledge of blood classification system to locate donor's blood
  • Perform immunohematology tests on donor's blood to confirm matching blood types
  • Requisition and send blood to supply a patient's need and prepare written reports to inform a physician of test results and of the required volume of blood to administer in a transfusion
  • Recommend blood solutions to doctors and serve as a consultant to a blood bank
  • May advise medical technologists in techniques of microscopic identification in blood
  • A typical day for an immunohematology technologist will vary depending on where they work and what they specialize in. Those working with infectious patients and samples and hazardous chemicals must take safety precautions to avoid infection or injury. Again, working hours vary depending on the type of laboratory in which they work. Research laboratories usually operate weekdays only, however, in diagnostic clinical laboratories, technologists work rotating shifts of days, evenings and nights, including weekends and holidays.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Immunohematology technologists work for hospitals, research laboratories and clinics, blood banks, community donor clinics, universities and different levels of government.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for immunohematology technologists? Those with experience may gain higher levels of responsibility and begin performing more advanced experiments. With further education, they can also advance to become immunohematologists, change their focus into another medical technology area (such as cytotechnology or histology technology), or become senior supervisors or managers. Some immunohematology technologists can work for blood banks and advocate blood donations. They may also teach at the university level.
 

  Educational Paths  
The educational path for becoming an immunohematology technologist is either a Bachelor of Science in immunology or hematology or a two- to three-year technical program at a community college in medical technology, specializing in immunohematology. Some people choose to volunteer at a blood bank or a clinic to see if this area interests them. It also helps them make sure that they feel comfortable working with blood and sick people.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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