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All in a Day's Work: Barb Gillen, a Technical Specialist in Serology in the Reference Laboratory at Memorial Blood Centers in St. Paul (Republished from Star Tribune)

December 15, 2010

BarbArticle Credit: Star Tribune/NANCY CROTTI
Photo Credit: Tom Witta
Updated/Published: December 15, 2010
Republished with permission

Barb Gillen, a Technical Specialist in Serology in the Reference Laboratory at Memorial Blood Centers in St. Paul, talks about her job. 

Q: What's a typical workday like for you?
A: I test the blood of patients who are about to have a blood transfusion to find a safe match. Because of pregnancy or previous transfusions, some people's bodies make antibodies that can attack and destroy red blood cells if those cells contain an antigen that their body recognizes as being different from their own. I try to match their blood with donors whose antigens have been previously identified as safe for the patient. I also do general equipment set-ups, review standard operating procedures, train new technicians and oversee the work of medical technology students.

Q: How does your role fit into the bigger health care picture?
A: I talk often with hospitals and technicians about alternate techniques they can use in patient workups. I work with our Donor Management Center to request donations of a specific blood type. If a patient needs a rare donor match, I contact the Rare Donor Program in Philadelphia.

Q: Who do you interact with during the course of the day?
A: I interact with other technologists in the reference lab; our hospital services department, which ships units of blood to hospitals; the component lab, which divides donated blood into plasma, platelets and red blood cells; and the donor testing department, which does viral testing on our donors. I also interact with clients in Minnesota, surrounding states, Illinois and Tennessee.

Q: Why did you become a technical specialist in serology?
A: Ever since I did my clinical rotation as part of my bachelor's degree, I found blood banking fascinating. I have to use different techniques for each case because each patient's immune system is different.

Q: What do you like about your work?
A: I love the challenge and teaching students, trainees and other blood bankers in the hospital labs. I try to pass on the passion I have for blood banking to others.

Source: Star Tribune

About Memorial Blood Centers (St. Paul, MN) – Memorial Blood Centers has been saving lives for over 65 years as an independent nonprofit supplying life-saving blood to area hospitals and other partners throughout the U.S. Operating 11 donor centers and conducting hundreds of blood drives each month, Memorial Blood Centers also provides comprehensive testing and expert technical services as a national leader in transfusion medicine. For more information, call 888-GIVE-BLD or visit