Clinical Center News
Spring 2022

Clinical Center program trains often-overlooked transfusion medicine professionals

Specialist in Blood Banking student working in lab
Current SBB student Ashley Collins MLS(ASCP), is using the pneumonic tube system to send a blood component to the floor to be transfused to a Clinical Center patient.

Blood banks throughout the country are navigating a challenging environment where the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the NIH Blood Bank's active donor pool by 25%. Blood bank staff play a key role in supporting this vital component of the health care system. An often-overlooked part of that group are certified Specialist in Blood Banking (SBB) professionals. According to research, SBB programs play an important role in preparing medical technologists to become leaders and contributors to the field of transfusion medicine through dedicated education and training.

If someone decides to become a specialist in blood bank technology in the United States, there are 12 accredited programs for certification, one of which is hosted by the NIH Clinical Center's Department of Transfusion Medicine (DTM). DTM's SBB program delivers training face-to-face, onsite training - one of only three programs to do so.

The Clinical Center's program was established in 1966 as a continuing education opportunity for staff and has since evolved into an established and accredited program. 

The current curriculum includes formal and informal teaching sessions that address blood donations; genetics; molecular immunohematology (the study antigen-antibody reactions in the blood); viral disease testing; blood preservation and storage; blood component therapy; hazards of blood transfusion; blood bank administration and other relevant topics.

DTM's SBB program consists of four components, which are performed concurrently during the one-year certificate program. The components focus on instruction, examinations, homework assignments and journal clubs; hands-on practical experience through clinical rotations; research on scientific, educational or management-oriented projects that introduce students to performing literature reviews, practicing time management, collecting and analyzing data, writing findings, presenting and potentially submitting their work for publication, and practical experience working as temporary, part-time employees of the blood bank.

Dr. Willy A. Flegel, chief of DTM's Laboratory Services Section, and his team recently completed a review of the SBB program titled: "An outcome-based review of an accredited Specialist in Blood Banking (SBB) program: 25 years and counting." 

According to Flegel, "We collected, reviewed and organized data which provided a useful internal assessment to review the history of our program and prepare for the future."

From 1994 to 2021, the SBB program at the NIH Clinical Center has graduated 57 students, with an overall pass rate of 95 percent for the American Society for Clinical Pathology SBB examination. Program graduates hold a variety of positions in transfusion medicine-related fields, with hospitals, blood centers and Immunohematology Reference Laboratories being the most common categories of employer.

Michelle Lodermeier graduated from the NIH Specialist in Blood Banking program in 2017 and is now the Assistant Director for the American Red Cross' SBB Program in St. Paul, Minn.

She feels the strength of the NIH program is exposing students to different facets of blood banking not often encountered in hospital transfusion services, such as cellular therapy, molecular immunohematology, blood component processing and advanced immunohematology techniques. Her experience at NIH also taught her the value and importance of being actively involved in the transfusion medicine community, contributing to research, publications, education and networking.

Lodermeier noted, "The dedicated people in this program are all truly invested the students' ultimate success. I was actively invited to take part in various learning opportunities. What I love most about my current position is that I have the opportunity to inspire passion for blood banking in others and help improve their livelihoods, just as the NIH program did for me. Without a doubt, I would not hold the position I have today or have the enthusiasm for my job if I had not attended the NIH SBB program. While I only spent a year at the NIH, I have the utmost respect for the people and work being done at the Clinical Center, and that time will always hold a special place in my heart."

Learn more about the NIH Specialist in Blood Banking program.

As part of their outreach, DTM has produced a video about their Specialist in Blood Banking (SBB) program.

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