Kamryn Palomo, a student from Deb Ayers' phlebotomy class at Ontario High School, is one of four students to pass her Certified Phlebotomy Technician exam in May 2021. (Submitted photo)

ONTARIO – Normally, blood is not good in the classroom. 

But in Deb Ayers’ phlebotomy class at Ontario High School, it was the focus and the reward of her students’ hours of study as they learned to draw blood for medical purposes. 

The class, part of Ontario’s certified nursing assistant program, had nine students who spent their third trimester pursuing a phlebotomy certification. Despite the Covid pandemic’s interference with the majority of in-person classes, the phlebotomy class was allowed to meet. 

During the 2019-2020 school year, the first attempt to train phlebotomists was cut short by Covid, so it was Ayers’ first time teaching the course to completion.

“I have been a RN for over 30 years and I have drawn a lot of blood in my career but never have taught phlebotomy,” Ayers said in an email. “So, this was a stretch for me.”

Ayers and her students were supported by the National Health Careers Association, which provided online modules for the students to practice. Ayers’ students learned to draw blood with both intravenous needles and capillary sticks. 

Two students even had the opportunity to shadow phlebotomists at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Ontario.

Before their final exam to become certified phlebotomists, students had to complete 30 successful venipunctures and 10 successful capillary sticks on live patients. 

“We had administrators, teachers, and staff at OHS graciously offer their time (and veins) so students could complete their requirements,” Ayers said. “We could not have done this without their support!”

On May 28 four students passed their exam, and three others came within 10 points of passing. The students who have not yet passed the test will have a chance to retake later this month. 

“It was extremely difficult, but Deb was able to get it done,” said Mark Redmond, superintendent of the Malheur Education Service District, which runs Treasure Valley Tech. Treasure Valley Tech sponsors career and technical education classes at Ontario, Vale and Nyssa High Schools. 

“Students completing this certification will be seeking jobs as phlebotomists to help them get through college or may be utilizing this certification to be their life job,” Ayers said. “One student wants to work for the Red Cross doing their blood donation events.” 

Despite a year she described as “challenging,” Ayers said there had been “rewards.” 

“Students are grateful to the program for this opportunity,” she said. 

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.

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