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Meet Tanzina. One of our most experienced paediatric collectors

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4th September, 2023

Tanzina Sheikh’s first job in Australia was as a pathology collector (Phlebotomist) with NSW Health Pathology at our Prince of Wales Campus in 2005, and she hasn’t looked back.

Tanz­i­na says she loves the work in a clin­i­cal hos­pi­tal envi­ron­ment, her co-work­ers, and man­agers – she loves it all. Tanz­i­na believes shar­ing knowl­edge is essen­tial and trains new pathol­o­gy team­mates when they start.

So much so that Tanz­i­na decid­ed to go one step fur­ther and teach blood col­lec­tion at a pri­vate col­lege in her spare time.

“I learn when I teach stu­dents. They have so many ques­tions; it keeps me on my toes, and I learn a lot from them just as they learn from my experience”.

Sharing experiences to teach others

Orig­i­nal­ly from Bangladesh, Tanz­i­na and her hus­band crossed the Indi­an Ocean to NSW, Aus­tralia, for her hus­band’s work. She chose to study Pathol­o­gy Col­lec­tion Cer­tifi­cate III and lat­er com­plet­ed her Cer­tifi­cate IV.

Tanz­i­na is pas­sion­ate about shar­ing her expe­ri­ence and help­ing oth­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly women, realise their poten­tial and how it’s pos­si­ble to jug­gle work and fam­i­ly life. She says, “It’s great to see so many women in pathol­o­gy. I advo­cate for wives and mums who don’t think they can do it all – work and look after their families.

“I tell them, ‘You can. You can do it; it just takes some organ­i­sa­tion.’ I see lots of women, like me, from over­seas who find the cul­ture here so different.”

Consider a career in pathology

Tanz­i­na advis­es any­one con­sid­er­ing a career as a blood col­lec­tor: “You have to be OK with nee­dles and blood. It scares many trainees they might hurt peo­ple when they take blood.

“I tell my stu­dents, ‘Remem­ber, you are help­ing to find the prob­lem and the diag­no­sis so the doc­tors can treat the child.’ You must love com­mu­ni­cat­ing and talk­ing to peo­ple all day – get­ting to know the kids and their families.

“You get to know their real life, not the rosy pic­ture some peo­ple put on social media for the out­side world, but the true authen­tic real life. And that’s so special.”

Paediatric collections are a specialism

Tanz­i­na says, “The hard­est thing about pae­di­atric blood col­lec­tion is find­ing the vein. When I first start­ed, the senior nurs­es gave me some great tips on where to try as a last resort. I still use their tricks today and pass the tech­nique on to my students.”

Syd­ney Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal at Rand­wick is one of Syd­ney’s largest chil­dren’s hos­pi­tals. Kids come from all over NSW for spe­cialised care. “I love work­ing here. You need to know a lot of dif­fer­ent con­di­tions, like meta­bol­ic, renal and genet­ic diseases.”

Pae­di­atric col­lec­tions are unique and need a dif­fer­ent skill set com­pared to adults, with the abil­i­ty to empathise with the child but, most impor­tant­ly, relate to the par­ents and make them feel at ease.

“When an adult is sick in hos­pi­tal, it’s not nice, but when their child is unwell, it’s tru­ly awful,” Tanz­i­na says.

Collection challenges

Our col­lec­tors try to only get the min­i­mum blood need­ed on the first attempt.

“It’s essen­tial to gain the trust of the par­ents and car­ers, which can be chal­leng­ing when a child is sick. Emo­tions are high. It takes time to earn and build rap­port at such a stress­ful time. The par­ents might’ve just received some bad news, which you must be mind­ful of,” she says.

Some of the most chal­leng­ing kids are those with spe­cial needs. Chil­dren with autism some­times need extra time to become com­fort­able with new peo­ple. They often need two col­lec­tors, but Tanz­i­na prefers to do it solo.

“I’m hap­py to take the time to make them com­fort­able with me, to feel relaxed. I ask them ques­tions and learn things about them, mak­ing it eas­i­er to explain what I need from them.

“His moth­er was so pleased I could col­lect the blood on the first attempt.”

With such an excel­lent bed­side man­ner, some par­ents ask for Tanz­i­na by name, only want­i­ng Tanz­i­na to be their col­lec­tor. “It’s that appre­ci­a­tion that keeps me going.”

Learning a new culture

One of the hard­est things for Tanz­i­na to learn when she moved to Aus­tralia was the dif­fer­ence in eti­quette and how to han­dle dif­fer­ent situations.

She quick­ly learned the impor­tance of patient com­mu­ni­ca­tion by watch­ing senior hos­pi­tal staff. “I learnt quick­ly to nev­er take any­thing per­son­al­ly. You can learn from every expe­ri­ence. I’m still learn­ing how to do things bet­ter, and that’s OK. We’re all grow­ing all the time.”

Believe it or not, Tanz­i­na used to be shy, with Eng­lish not her first lan­guage. Still self-con­scious of her lan­guage skills, she con­tin­ues to learn. Tanz­i­na is extreme­ly proud of the life she has made for her­self and the impor­tant work she does.

“I’ve moved house and now live much fur­ther away. I could trans­fer to anoth­er NSW Health Pathol­o­gy loca­tion clos­er to home, but I’d miss it here. I’m hap­py to com­mute so I can stay at one of the biggest chil­dren’s hos­pi­tals in NSW.”

How to handle difficult situations and switch off

Some days are hard­er than others.

“You see some very sad sit­u­a­tions, and switch­ing off at the end of your shift can be dif­fi­cult. You still feel it when you go home, but I try to keep myself busy. My 17-year-old son keeps me occupied.”

In her spare time, Tanz­i­na spends time with fam­i­ly and friends and is hap­pi­est being active.

Back home in Bangladesh, Tanz­i­na was a nutri­tion­ist, but her over­seas qual­i­fi­ca­tion isn’t recog­nised in Aus­tralia. Though she planned to trans­fer her nutri­tion qual­i­fi­ca­tions here at some stage, Tanz­i­na says she enjoys pathol­o­gy so much, the years have flown by.

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