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Unique co-op work experience for CTE students
Sara Abdel at the collection lab
BOCES 2 CTE Phlebotomy and Laboratory Science students have a new opportunity: phlebotomy training at a local collection station. It’s a unique experience for high school students. Four students are taking a turn at this first-ever cooperative work option.

In order to qualify for the professional phlebotomy certification exam, candidates must complete 30 successful blood draws (or “sticks”) on live patients. In the classroom lab at WEMOCO, there are state-of-the-art IV practice arms that have simulated blood to help prepare students for live draws. According to program teacher Jim Payne, “The students have translated well the skills learned on the phlebotomy training arm, which allowed them to begin immediately on the first day successfully drawing patients’ blood.” But once real people are introduced, a host of unexpected factors are added.
Seniors Alexandra Mendoza (Holley) and Sara Abdel (Greece Athena) were the first two students to participate. Each spent one full week working with a trainer at a collection site, the same process that new hires follow. Senior Alayna Hamlin (Brockport) and junior Ava Franklin (Kendall) will also complete the internship later this school year.

For Mendoza and Abdel, the on-site week affirmed their goals to pursue phlebotomy professionally. They both shared that it was amazing to put the theory and simulations they’ve experienced in class into real life action.

One nice feature of the IV practice arms is that their veins are easy to find and they do not have any personal issues. But in real life draws, the students faced numerous challenges, which they translated into useful lessons. During their internships, there were babies who needed to have blood drawn, adults who were incapable of cooperating, people who needed draws from their hands and even someone who fainted. As Mendoza said, “Many people come in and right away said they are either a hard stick or that their veins roll.”

Right from the beginning, the skills Mendoza brought from the classroom were recognized and praised. Her trainer said, “Wow, you actually know how to tie a tourniquet!” Although she had to identify herself as a trainee for each blood draw, she had many compliments praising her for providing a painless needle stick. One patient told the trainer that she wants Mendoza for all her future blood draws.

Abdel also was told that her skills were excellent. Her trainer told her, “You watched me draw two times and you already have it!”

The students felt confident with their skills at drawing blood, but they learned from the activity that they excel at another skill – making patients feel at ease. Their trainers pointed out that their demeanors were good for dealing with the public. Mendoza is a people person and she loved the interaction with patients. Abdel enjoyed making people feel comfortable and doing something good for them. Both students shared that they kept patients talking, and calmly explained each step in the process so patients were never startled.

Being in a real workplace was a “confidence booster” according to Mendoza. “I now know I can do this,” she said.

Abdel was happy with being treated as an equal to the professional phlebotomists. She said, “The staff was welcoming and supportive.”
Both students plan to attend college in the future, but first they intend to enter the workforce as phlebotomists after high school graduation.

As noted earlier, 30 successful “sticks” must be verified before a potential phlebotomist can take the certification exam. In their one-week assignments, Mendoza had more than 120 successful sticks, and Abdel had 114 – a measure of success for their skills and for this new CTE partnership.