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Pace for lab assistants is 'zero to 60'


Rajiv Raj is a medical laboratory assistant who has been working at Royal Columbian Hospital for the past four years. The Record caught up with Raj this week to find out what it's like in the laboratory and pathology department.

Question: Can you describe your role?

Answer: On a normal basis I would do blood collection in the emergency room, wards and the neonatal intensive care unit, which is where the babies are. We do a lot of computer stuff, too, where we receive and send out.

I also do special handling, which is basically where tubes need to be spun or they need to be cold. I also do microbiology setup.

We also have a contract with the psychiatric hospital at Colony Farm (Forensic Psychiatric Hospital), so on occasion I also go there.

And we have a contract with Queen's Park Care Home, and so we also go there as well.

Q: What's the most interesting thing about your job?

A: The most interesting thing about my job is probably traumas in the ER. We're usually there during a trauma because they need blood collection right away so they can analyze the patient.

We're a very important part of the diagnostic (team) at the hospital.

Q: Is there one myth you'd like to dispel about your job?

A: We are not actually vampires. A lot of people think that we're taking a lot of blood when, in fact, each tube is only about 5 ml and we do a lot of the testing ourselves, so we take a lot less blood than they would at B.C. Biomedical.

Q: What did you want to be when you were a kid?

A: A physician - I wanted to be a doctor, (but) I went through some hardship and I decided to get into healthcare and then see what I wanted to do after that.

Q: Where did you get your training?

A: I went to Stenberg College in Surrey. It's a career-based program, and it's about nine months long, plus a one-month practicum.

Q: What's a typical day at work for you?

A: It starts crazy and ends crazy. We have a term here: it's zero to 60. It can be calm and in 60 seconds it can be the craziest you've ever seen. It keeps you going to work. Obviously we don't have a boring job.

Q: Most exciting experience you've had at work?

A: One of them was a patient that came in, and he was drinking and driving on a tractor and he fell over, and I think it

was a taxi that drove over him, unfortunately, and his head was cracked wide open. And he came in and, yeah, we were looking at the inside of his head.

Q: Were you afraid of needles before you started this job?

A: No, I was never afraid of needles, I was never afraid of blood.

When I first started, in my first job when I was in school, I was extremely nervous. but after that, yeah, I'm actually extremely good at it.

I'm the one they go to when (the other laboratory assistants) miss. I'm the go-to guy.

Q: Do you wear scrubs?

A: I do wear scrubs, yeah. I've got this aqua/turquoise blue one. It's actually very difficult to find men's scrubs. There's only so many colours and for women's scrubs there's all different fancy ones.

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