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Story Unmasked: Linda Mbajiorgu, Laboratory Technologist (British Columbia)

Updated: 6 days ago

Interviewed by Hope Salim.

Knowing that my job is essential, and that it isn’t the type of job that can just be stopped for a few days, keeps me going. I work nights because the job is needed 24/7.

What is a typical day like for you?

Because I work shift work, I check in with the techs working the shift before me and I see what the previous shift has to say about patients that still need workups done or if there is machinery that needs to be troubleshooted. So I get all the stories, log into the computer, get set up with all the instrument queues, and check my email. I work nights, so that involves a lot of maintenance on the analysers.


What’s something that people might not know about your job (or something cool)?

A lot of people don’t know what my job is in general. Even nurses and doctors aren’t always sure and sometimes think that we just collect blood. We actually do all of the testing on patient samples, so we are right between the doctor and the patient. We’re a pretty vital part of healthcare but can often be overlooked or misunderstood.


What is a superpower that you would say Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLTs) have?

I think our superpower is being able to talk to a whole bunch of different people on the phone, and we have to be able to appease everyone. For example, doctors sometimes ask for urine PCR, which is not a real test. Sometimes patients will call for results, or doctors and nurses will want to know what kind of test to do. It’s like customer service; we have to be really good on the phone!

What is the most enjoyable thing about your job?

I really like the problem solving aspect. I can get new patients and situations that I haven’t encountered before. If test results are way beyond what is expected, I need to figure out what the problem is. There’s always something going on and always something new to figure out. It keeps my mind active.


How has COVID-19 changed the way you work?

There are more precautions at work, with the masks and distancing from everyone. The workload changed in that it slowed down a lot at the beginning but is now fairly back to normal now. Luckily I just work with blood, and they always label the samples to indicate if the patient has COVID. I would be a little nervous if I had to work with other samples on the microbiology team.

I did not realize that you tested COVID patients; [don't patients need to] test negative to get laboratory testing done?

If someone comes into the ER or is in the hospital with COVID symptoms, they would be tested by the microbiology team in the hospital. They have swabs on site that they use, and we don’t test them in our labs. But COVID ICU patients do require bloodwork and they need to be monitored at all times so we test those samples in our lab.


If you had known ahead of time, say four years ago, that there would be a pandemic, would you have still chosen this career path?

I think so! I love the fact that my job helps people. It’s a really important job, because the results I give to the doctor affect the medication and treatment the patient receives. I’ve always wanted to work in medicine, but seeing sick patients can sometimes take a toll on me, so as a medical laboratory technologist I can work in medicine and still help people. I feel taken care of because we have lots of PPE and don’t feel too nervous working with COVID patients’ blood samples.

Health care doesn't stop at night, and 24/7 there are patients who need treatment.

What motivates you to get through the pandemic?

Knowing that my job is essential, and that it isn’t the type of job that can just be stopped for a few days, keeps me going. I work nights because the job is needed 24/7. Health care doesn't stop at night, and 24/7 there are patients who need treatment. If I don’t come to work, that can affect patients. Knowing how valuable my job is drives me. And I love it!

I moved to a new city for work, in the middle of COVID. It was a weird time to meet friends, because of social distancing and needing to stay away from others. I’m a very social person so it was a big struggle at the beginning.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your personal life (because of COVID)?

I moved to a new city for work, in the middle of COVID. It was a weird time to meet friends, because of social distancing and needing to stay away from others. I’m a very social person so it was a big struggle at the beginning. I made a few close friends that are now in my bubble and that has helped so much. I haven’t seen my family in over a year and that’s been pretty tough, but my family will be driving over in the summer, so I have that to look forward to. I also couldn’t explore the city, and Victoria is a tourist destination, so there’s a lot I want to do. I can’t wait to experience all that the city has to offer!


So then how have you coped with having all these changes? Do you have a self-care ritual?

I definitely had to increase visits with my therapist, and I’m currently on anti-anxiety medication, which has helped a lot. I get a massage and take a bubble bath once a week. I also recently started doing yoga everyday to ground myself. I found going out for a walk or going out to eat is a great way to relax.


Is there any good or memorable experience you’ve had over the last year that you’d like to share?

I did graduate in 2020, so being able to start the career that I went to school for was really rewarding. Moving to such a beautiful city was also a big highlight for me. It was both my biggest stress-inducer and most memorable experience!


So for my final question, if you could have a superpower, what would it be?

It’s a tie between teleportation and being invisible. Especially after moving, I would love to be able to teleport all my stuff!



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