It's My Job: Phlebotomist connects with donors

FARGO - Not only is Elaine Ista an experienced phlebotomist at United Blood Services in Fargo, she could also easily serve as a spokeswoman for the organization.

Elaine Ista
Elaine Ista is a phlebotomist at United Blood Services in south Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO - Not only is Elaine Ista an experienced phlebotomist at United Blood Services in Fargo, she could also easily serve as a spokeswoman for the organization.

Ista recently talked about the rewards of her job and the impor-tance of donating blood.

Q. How did you become a phlebotomist?

When I was applying for jobs, I kept leaning towards medical fields. I had been a donor myself since high school. I knew the procedures here, and I thought 'I could do that.' So I applied and got the job right away. I have loved it ever since.

What made you start giving blood?


The first time was when I was in high school and I knew they (American Red Cross) were coming to the area. I just thought it would be a really great community service. I'd be helping someone I didn't even know. It's a good feeling. ... As years have gone by, and the more experiences I have had in my life, I see the need for blood products out there. One gentleman from my hometown, he has since passed away, but he actually received 57 units of blood after a major accident. My own mother, who died from cancer, received several units of platelets, and it did extend her life and her quality of life. So, I see the need out there.

United Blood Service locations need to collect 500 units of blood per day to supply 93 medical facilities throughout the Dakotas.

What does your job entail?

First we take a donor back to a room to start the interview process. We go through a series of medical questions to make sure they're eligible to donate. We also go through behavioral questions to make sure they have no high-risk behaviors that might make them more susceptible to transmitting HIV, AIDS or hepatitis. We take their blood pressure, pulse and temperature and check their iron. If everything passes, we move on to the phlebotomy area and begin the draw.

How long does the process take?

We tell people to allow 45 minutes to an hour.

How often can someone donate?

If you donate whole blood, you can come every eight weeks. Double red cell donation can be done every 16 weeks. Plasma, the more liquidy part of your blood, can be donated every four months. Platelets, the product that goes mostly to cancer patients, can be donated every seven days.


What do you like about your job?

No two days are the same. It might be the same staff, with the same positive attitude, which is a plus, but the donors that come through the door are always different. Sure, you see repeats, and that is good because I get to know them and get to gab a bit more.

I try to make a connection with each donor. I try to remember one thing about a person that I want to bring up next time so we can connect again. The donors are so upbeat and so nice. Some of them have real, personal stories to share. Sometimes it's that something is going on in their own family and they're trying to help someone. It's very rewarding work.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501

Angie Wieck is the business editor for The Forum. Email her at
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