Whose Taking Your Blood?

March 8, 2004 -- Posted at 4:39 p.m. CST

JONESBORO -- "Now this won't hurt at all, but you may feel a pinch." It's the standard line we hear whenever we have blood drawn...but just how safe are you when someone is taking your blood?

Donating blood is giving the gift of life, but are you putting yours at risk when you donate?

No says Bob Draper of the American Red Cross.

"We prefer individuals who have a medical background, either in inveinipuncture or some type of medical procedures," said Draper.

Supervisor of Collections Operation Jerilyn Peterson, L.P.N. said, "We do have to have credentials of some kind of training before we're even hired by the Red Cross, so basically, we're familiar with procedures but then we have to learn the american red cross procedures."

Phlebotomist at the American Red Cross are not volunteers, but a paid position that requires extensive training. They will endure six weeks of specialized training, before being turned loose. Traveling to Little Rock, they spend one week on procedures, three weeks with a team in a fixed setting and in a mobile operation, before returning to Jonesboro for yet more training.

"Then, they will be, like I said, assigned with the individuals who have already gone through this stringent procedure, that the guidelines that the FDA requires....both in a local operative procedure as well as a blood directive procedure," said Draper.

Having a medical background is important for the phlebotomists at the American Red Cross...

"Anybody in the medical field knows what to expect and when to expect it...and this is why we look for this type of experience, yes," said Peterson.

"It's an ongoing thing to make sure that the individuals who are out in the field are doing their job properly," said Draper.

And doing that job right can make a difference in life and death.

A report from the American Society of Clinical Pathologists indicates that phlebotomists are in high demand. The report says day shift vacancies increased from 23 to 27 percent from 1998 to 2000.