Frequently Asked Questions Specialist in Blood Bank Program

Here are some questions that you might have about a web-based SBB program.

  • Is there a charge/fee for this program?
    • Yes, the student will be charged tuition in accordance with current tuition rates of the University of Texas Medical Branch.  The amount of tuition for each semester depends on the exact number of semester hours taken.  For most semesters, the student will have 6 semester hours.
    • Note that tuition rates differ for in-state (Texas residents) and out-of-state students.
    • Applicants who are interested in the TRM-MS program in states where there is no equivalent program may be eligible for in-state tuition.  Review the information provided regarding the Academic Common Market (www.sreb.org) to determine if your state participates.
    • There also might be a charge from your employer to use reagents or other specialized items or supplies. There may be a charge from external laboratories where you complete clinical practicums.
  • How will I obtain the necessary clinical experience?
    • You may use your current place of employment for some of the experience.
      • Your employer must provide information about their facility at the time you apply for the program.
    • For any practicum experience that you cannot obtain at your place of employment, you must locate an additional facility where you can complete the checklist for that experience. Any facility you use for experience must complete a Memorandum of Understanding AFTER you are accepted into this program. Please note that a facility may charge you for this experience.
    • The amount of time you will need to complete the practicum checklist items will be different for every student.  A minimum number of hours is provided in the Practicum course syllabus; however, additional hours may be obtained if needed or desired.
    • At this time, the UTMB Blood Bank cannot accept students for practicum experience.  The Program Director/Education Coordinator may provide contact information in some cases for potential Practicum locations.
  • How does UTMB know the student has completed the necessary experience?
    • There is a set of checklists that a supervisor and/or mentor must complete.  You will upload all completed checklists into the Blackboard Learning Management System. These checklists are EXTENSIVE and time consuming. Remember you are NOT just taking a course to pass the SBB ASCP exam; you are enrolled in a SBB program!
    • There will also be evaluations, case studies, unknowns, projects and laboratory assignments.
  • How will I take written and practical exams?
    • Written exams are taken by computer and may be taken when convenient for you.  In most cases, an exam will be available for at least 7 days.
    • Written exams must be taken with a proctor.  The proctor can be your mentor, a supervisor or another responsible person at your place of employment.  Exams can also be taken at a local community college or other establishments where exams are routinely given.  However, there may be a charge for taking exams at a testing center.
    • You must identify your proctor and submit the name and email address of the proctor before your program begins.  The proctor does not have to stay with you the entire time you are taking an exam, but he or she must ensure that you do not use unapproved materials during the testing process.  In other words, the job of the proctor is to ensure that you are not cheating!
    • In some cases, instructions or materials for the exam may be sent to the proctor in advance, so it is important to be certain that the proctor’s email address is current.
    • Practical exams will be done on paper by using email. Case studies will be provided along with testing results and you will work through the serological testing process by requesting additional results until you have resolved the patient’s problem.
  • How do I select a mentor?
    • Your mentor is a SBB(ASCP), a Medical Director or someone with the extensive blood bank/transfusion medicine experience. The mentor for international students must show experience in the field of blood banking.
    • Your mentor is someone who can help you through the year of SBB school – someone who can answer questions, proctor exams, help with locating samples for testing, advise you on research topics and in many cases, help with networking for sites in which to complete Clinical Practicums.
    • You will choose a mentor and the qualifications will be evaluated by the Program Director/Education Coordinator..
    • The mentor must complete an agreement form and provide a CV and/or resume. The mentor will be given information to help you with your year.
  • My mentor wants to know what he/she will be required to do.
    • The mentor will be the person that the Program Director/Education Coordinator can contact if you are struggling.
    • The mentor is the person who can help you find places to complete your Clinical Practicum checklists.
    • Your mentor may help you find samples as indicated in the homework assignments.
    • The mentor may be the person you can talk to about problems, help you study, give you advice and moral support through the year.
    • The mentor will be given access to all objectives and checklists; they will not have a copy of the tests.
  • What type of computer will I need?
    • Please check out these websites: http://www.utmb.edu/is/isbusops/HardwareStandards.aspx and http://www.utmb.edu/is/isbusops/SoftwareStandards.aspx.  These are STANDARDS used at UTMB and minimum recommendations.  This does not mean you can't have more but it will be more difficult if you have something less.
    • You must have reliable access to the internet.  We will use the BlackBoard Learning Management System. You will have to download PowerPoint presentations - some quite large - so a high speed internet connection will make this easier for you.
  • You must be able to stay on line for up to three hours to complete an exam. When taking exams it is best to have a wired internet connection, since disruption of the connection will cause an incomplete test to be submitted.  Consider the speed and reliability of your internet connection when determining where you will take exams.  Most hospitals/clinical labs and testing centers will be adequate for taking exams.
  • Do I have to come to UTMB?
    • Yes, you will be required to come to UTMB for the first week of the SBB program. During this week you will be oriented to BlackBoard, attend lectures, develop your schedule and become acquainted with other students. You must pay for all costs associated with this week.
    • For the MS-TRM program, an on-campus weekend lab (Thursday-Sunday) is required for the Molecular Diagnostics course (Spring semester).  You must pay for all costs associated with this week.
  • How will I obtain information to study for the exams?
    • UTMB provides objectives and suggestions for additional reading. You will do the reading and answer the objectives.
    • Notes/outlines will be provided using PowerPoint presentations on BlackBoard.  Some PowerPoint presentations have voice-over narration and some lectures have been recorded to provide the ability to listen to the presentation.
    • The Education Coordinator, Medical Director, and other faculty will be available via email and a discussion board for you to clarify questions you might have.
    • Please note that there is currently very little hands-on training provided. The material is the same that you would get if you went to an on-site program minus the face to face lectures.
  • How much time should I give for this program?
    • Each person is different; however, I would dedicate at least two hours a night during the week and possibly one 8 hour day on the weekend for studying.
    • For the clinical practicum requirements, much of the checklist tasks can be completed from the current and previous work you have done in blood banking. In some instances, you may have to take vacation time and spend time observing donor activities and performing reference lab testing at a blood center.
  • What books should I buy?
    • You are not required to purchase any books.  However, everyone should have access to a current copy of the Technical Manual and the AABB Standards. The Blood Group Antigen Facts Book (Reid, Lomas-Francis and Olsson) is also very helpful.  Any current Immunohematology text is acceptable to use as a reference.  There are also great internet sites and your place of employment may have books you can use.
    • For a list of suggested readings, please refer to the ASCP.org website. ASCP has posted a list of books recommended for studying for the SBB(ASCP) exam.
  • What if I cannot keep up with the scheduled tests and clinical requirements?
    • You must take the exams at the scheduled time. If you are late or do not maintain at least 75% average, you will be placed on academic probation. You will be given one more chance to stay on schedule or raise your grades. All situations will be discussed individually as each student will have different problems.
    • UTMB reserves the right to remove a student from the program due to poor performance or failure to keep up with the schedule. If the student is removed from the program for poor performance, no refunds will be given.
  • What if I change places of employment during my year of training? What if my mentor leaves or decides they do not want to continue?
    • You are encouraged to keep the same position for the year if at all possible. If you must change positions, the new facility must agree to continue with your training. New affiliation information and forms must be completed.
    • If the mentor leaves but is still willing to continue to assist you, there should be no problem.  However, if the mentor decides that he/she is unable to continue to provide support, you must locate another mentor.  Depending on the student and the stage of training, you may be able to continue without a mentor.
  • So all I have to do is study, take the tests and complete the checklists for the clinical experience?
    • No, you must also complete a research project, prepare critiques on journal articles and antibody cases, prepare and test unknown samples and complete a management and education project.
    • This is a long and very busy year! You will study for 12 tests plus a midterm and final exam. You will have to do your clinical rotations and all the projects. PLUS you will still be working and possibly interacting with friends and family.
    • It will be the longest – and shortest – year of your life!!

So are you ready to apply? If so, complete the application process and if you meet the required points, a conference call will be set up so you can make an informed decision about becoming a student in the UTMB SBB program.