Specialist in Blood Bank Technology (SBB)
By Mark Miller
Specialists in blood bank technology perform routine and specialized testing for blood donor centers, transfusion services, laboratories, and research facilities. Medical laboratory technicians and scientists may also perform these tests, but specialists typically perform additional tests for antibodies and compatibility. The position also includes supervisory, management, and teaching responsibilities.
Specialists in blood bank technology are certified by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and trained to:
- Test for blood group antigens, compatibility, and antibody identification
- Investigate hemolytic diseases of the newborn, hemolytic anemias, and adverse transfusion reactions
- Support physicians with transfusion therapies for patients with coagulopathies (diseases that affect blood clotting)
- Perform blood collection and processing: selecting donors, collecting blood, typing blood, and molecular testing
- Perform viral marker testing to ensure patient safety
- Manage patient blood storage and transport
Blood testing, processing, investigating, and managing call for sound problem-solving abilities. Attention to detail is also important because the smallest difference, similarity, or anomaly can be critical to forming a diagnosis. Proficiency with computers is another core skill, along with a high degree of manual dexterity.
A Diverse Range of Roles
A specialist in blood bank technology can be involved in any blood blank operation, ranging from routine to advanced procedures. Roles can include:
- Regulatory expert
- Technical/procedural advisor
- Laboratory advisor
- Quality assessor and manager
- Transfusion technical/scientific trainer
- Transfusion medicine researcher
In many cases, specialists in blood bank technology oversee laboratories as technical supervisors and managers. Their work can also involve research and consulting. They can serve as transfusion safety officers or manage patient blood programs like intra- and post-operative blood salvage and transfusion monitoring.
Work is typically performed in community blood centers, hospital blood banks, and facilities associated with universities. Transfusion services or independent laboratories are other possible work environments. Being on call for weekends or nights may be required.
A bachelor’s degree — ideally with a major in biology, microbiology, or another biological or physical science — is required, along with certification as a medical technologist.
Graduates with this certification can enroll in an accredited, one-year specialized training program or pursue a master’s degree in immunohematology. Either course of training will include:
- Basic and advanced serological techniques
- Blood donation and product manufacturing
- Viral disease testing
- Transfusion medicine practices
- Component therapy
- Quality systems and process control
- Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) and transplantation
- Education and research
- Blood bank administration
Accreditation and Certification
Programs for specialists in blood bank technology are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
Upon completion of an accredited program and the Board of Certification SBB Certification Examination, you can become certified as a Specialist in Blood Banking Technology (SBB). The examination is offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification in collaboration with the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB).
Job Outlook and Salary
According to HeathCarePathway.com, there is a current need and future demand for specialists in blood bank technology.
In May 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that openings that include specialists in blood bank technology were projected to increase by 11 percent though 2030.
The average salary for specialists in blood bank technology is estimated to be between $58,000 and $78,000.
Opportunities for Advancement
According to CAAHEP, qualified specialists can move on to supervisory, administrative, or transfusion safety officer positions. They can also take advantage of teaching and research opportunities. Keys for advancement include experience, technical expertise, and completion of advanced education.
How Can I Prepare?
An average of five to six years of higher education is needed to become a specialist in blood bank technology. High school coursework in biological science, physical science, chemistry, and math will help you prepare for college courses. Since the work is done primarily in blood banks, take the time to visit one and ask if you can speak to one of the managers or even a specialist. You may even be able to volunteer.
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