Happy National Med Lab Week – A Q&A with Shelley Oliver, MLT

Today, April 25, is the last day of National Medical Laboratory Week.  We like to think that we are able to celebrate and recognize our hard working lab staff every day, but we are always happy to take some extra time during NMLW and really get to know some of the stars who make up the laboratory here at UHN.

Throughout the week we’ve heard from Jeannette Campbell, Shawn Brennan and Georgette Lawrence. Now, we invite you take some time and get to know Shelley Oliver, MLT, from our Blood Transfusion laboratory.

Read about Shelley’s role in our laboratory and how she supports patient care at UHN:

DSC03755What is your position?

Medical Laboratory Technologist

What do you do here? 

I work in our blood transfusion laboratory. Basically, my job is to help provide blood for transfusion. I process and test the samples and ensure that the blood is compatible with the patient before it goes out.

Why did you get into lab medicine?

Initially I thought I wanted to be a nurse, so I began volunteering back when I was in high school. I realized that the nursing field wasn’t the right fit for me, but I still felt the desire to work in the medical field and help patients. So, right through high school and beyond I continued to do different types of volunteer work, including a co-op placement, and found that I really enjoyed working in the laboratory. So, I’ve been in this field ever since.

How did you get started at UHN?

Back when I lived in Ottawa and worked in a laboratory out there, I was on a committee with the College of Medical Laboratory Technologists of Ontario (CMLTO) and had some regular contact with the blood bank here at UHN. Eventually a job opportunity came along here, I applied, interviewed and got the position. My husband is from the Toronto area, so it was an ideal fit for our family.

How long have you worked here?

15 years.

What is your favourite part of the job?

I really like the hands on aspect of working in the laboratory –  the blood bank especially. I like being a part of patient care and knowing that the work I’m doing, whether it is preparing the blood product, or helping out in any other way, is directly going to benefit the patient. I get great satisfaction knowing that the patient on the other end is being helped and looked after by the blood bank team.

What is the most challenging part of the job?

There are many parts of my job that are challenging – but I like the challenge! I enjoy the adrenaline of when we’re working on a massive transfusion or when we’re working on a lot of different blood products as I like feeling busy. But, the level of documentation and paperwork can be a challenge. Of course, I appreciate the value of documenting everything. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a challenge sometimes.

What value would you say you add to patient care?

Luckily in the blood bank, we often get direct feedback about our work and the positive impact it has on the patient. I really like hearing how a particular patient is doing, whether they’ve been discharged, that sort of thing. Especially if we worked really hard, sometimes even through the night, for the patient to make sure they had the blood product they need. To hear that they’re recovering and on the road to better health is a great feeling. We get a lot of wonderful feedback from many of the OR doctors who see and appreciate the effort we go through and they really appreciate it. We also hear back from our own blood transfusion doctors, they give us some feedback, and let us know that they appreciate our extra effort too.

National Med Lab Week is all about promoting the work of laboratory professionals – what do you wish people knew about the work that goes on inside the lab?

I will always push for even more recognition! Our work really makes a difference – imagine if there was no blood bank or laboratory at all! Things would certainly not be so positive for the patient. I take a lot of pride in the fact that we are working directly for the patient and I’m always thrilled when we receive that type of recognition.

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3 thoughts on “Happy National Med Lab Week – A Q&A with Shelley Oliver, MLT

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