Alicia Browning and Laura Buehler work behind the scenes to save patients’ lives. The duo graduated with their medical laboratory technician degrees from OTC in 2016. Today, they type and screen blood for transfusions at Mercy’s blood bank.
“What we do every day is essentially a big science experiment,” Laura said excitedly.
Alicia added, “We antigen type patients to see what’s on their red blood cells, and based on what we find, we give blood that’s compatible.”
Where it all began
The two discovered their passion for blood bank work while performing their clinicals in OTC’s Medical Laboratory Technician Program. They say the rigorous coursework and extensive clinical hours prepared them well for their careers.
“In this line of work, there’s no room for error. You have to be quick on your feet and ready for anything,” Laura explained. “We have days where there’s nothing going on one minute, and then, all of a sudden, we’re in the middle of a massive blood transfusion.”
Before OTC, Laura served as a pharmacy tech in the Army Reserves, while Alicia worked as a certified nursing assistant. Both women love the behind-the-scenes nature of their new profession. They say the most rewarding part of their jobs is receiving updates on the patients whose lives they helped save.
“That moment when you hear your patients are okay after you’ve worked so hard to get them blood products – that’s so affirming for me,” Laura said.
Alicia added that she follows Community Blood Center of the Ozarks on Facebook for the same reason.
“CBCO is great about posting updates on patients whose lives were saved thanks to blood donors and our work in the blood bank,” she explained.
The journey continues
After earning their associate degrees from OTC, Alicia and Laura made the decision to further their education at Missouri State. They enrolled together in 2017 and graduated in May with their bachelor’s degrees in health sciences.
“Now, we can sit for our medical technologist exam in blood banking and continue doing the job we love with more pay and responsibilities,” Alicia said.
As if the duo didn’t have enough in common, both Alicia and Laura managed to complete their bachelor’s degree program while pregnant and postpartum.
“Our kids – my second and her third – are exactly a year apart,” Laura explained with a smile. “I think Alicia seeing me survive the first year pregnant gave her the motivation to get through her own pregnancy while in school.”
All of Alicia and Laura’s children were in the stands for their graduations from OTC and Missouri State. Both women agree the lessons they taught their kids along the way were just as valuable as the degrees they earned.
“We’ve showed them that hard work pays off, and it’s never too late to go after your dreams,” Alicia said, her voice brimming with pride.
Laura and Alicia’s futures look bright thanks to the start they got at OTC. The two look forward to building their careers while saving lives – behind the scenes, of course – in Mercy’s blood bank.