I interviewed Tracey, a clinical chemist at a hospital in New York. She also has an awesome-pawsome website with videos on it. There is a possibilty that Nibbles will be interviewing me for Tracey’s site soon!
Where do you live?
I live in a house on a street in Glenmont, NY which is just south of Albany, NY. Usually I say Albany because more people know where that is than Glenmont.
What is it like where you live?
It is nice. Right now the snow and slush seems to have finished for the year and you can be outdoors again. I love my backyard when it is warm out. I can have a fire in the fire pit and toast marshmallows, and the yard is big enough to someday add things like a pool or gazebo or hot tub. Albany is very close, so if I get bored at home and want to see a concert or go shopping, I can. And the downtown area has good live music on the weekends as well as the occasional street festival.
You are a clinical chemist at a hospital? What does a clinical chemist do? What is it like?
I work at Albany Medical Center in the clinical chemistry department. My job goes by several different names which I can explain a bit later. Clinical chemist happens to be the most specific.
What I do is test patient samples for chemicals the doctor wants to monitor. Usually the sample is blood and it comes to us in a tube from another part of the hospital. Each tube has a sticker on it with a name, barcode, and test abbreviations.
The sticker looks kinda like this:
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The example I gave you tells me that a doctor wants to find out how much glucose and creatinine Mr. Fakelastname has in his blood. I put the tube in a spinning device called a centrifuge, which will push all the red cells to the bottom of the tube, and leave a layer of clear serum on top. The clear serum is all we need, so we put it in a new little tube with a copy of the barcode sticker on it.
The new little tube is loaded into one of six machines we have around the lab. This particular machine detects glucose, creatinine, and a bunch of other chemicals in serum. It also has a barcode reader just like at the grocery store so it can understand who the patient is and what tests are expected without my having to push any buttons besides “start”.
When the result comes out I can check it to make sure it isn’t too high or too low. If the result is extremely high or low, I will call the doctor immediately, because the patient may be in need of medicine or nutrients right away. If the result is within the normal range I file it on the computer for the doctor to look at when she gets a chance.
Among the stuff we can check for are various chemicals, drugs (legal and illegal), oxygen level, and certain enzymes. And each group of tests I told you about is measured on a different machine.
Overall I like the job because it uses my background in science and I get to help people who are sick; that is, I’m giving the doctors important information so they can decide how to make people well. It can be hard when the hospital is very busy with patients. You feel like there is no time to sit down because everyone is waiting for their test results and lots of samples keep coming for you to test. Other times it is slower and you can take breaks or just talk with the other chemists about their lives outside the lab.
How do you become a clinical chemist?
Before I answer that, a little terminology:
Clinical = medical (basically)
Technologist/technician = someone who performs tests
Laboratory (lab for short) = where almost any scientist does their tests
Chemistry = science of chemicals
You could call my job almost any combination of the above words and be correct. Medical technician, Clinical laboratory technologist, Chemical clinician, and so on…
The best way to get a job that falls under any of those titles is to have a college degree in a science like biology or chemistry and some courses that deal specifically with the clinical setting. It can depend on the state you live in too. Some states have additional requirements like a special exam a person must pass before being allowed to work in a job like mine.
You have a website called Yeah My Foot. What made you start doing that?
I got a video camera for my 23rd birthday and just playing around with it led to a mini-video of a stuffed animal perched in several locations around a beach house I was staying in. I liked the effect so much I started making him seem alive and voicing him with a high pitched version of my voice. I originally put some videos on DVD to show to friends. Then my husband Dan suggested I make them into a website. As to the name, I wanted one that sounded frivolous and had absolutely nothing to do with the actual videos. Mostly to keep people on their toes.
What do you have to do to make the videos?
Well the filming part is the most fun but it can also be quite difficult. You have to hold the bears where your fingers won’t be captured on camera. I don’t always accomplish this; sometimes my hand ends up in the movie just a little bit. For the shots where more than two bears are moving, I have to enlist a friend, usually Dan. Making sets can be fun but hard as well. I have to get creative with a lot of different materials. For the ‘Uncle Walter’ video I made a small armchair with cloth and cardboard. After the bits are filmed, I slice them together using a computer program called imovie. I can also add sound and video effects at that time.
What gave you the idea of using Care Bears?
I already owned several Care Bears as well as other stuffed bears. I used to collect them when I was young. Uncle Walter is a bear I had when I was little. Mainly I like using them because their faces are so expressive. It’s hard to find a generic bear that looks as happy as a Care Bear does.
What do you like to do on weekends…besides make videos?
I don’t like to cook, so my favorite thing to do is go out to restaurants with Dan. That can be expensive, so my other favorite is a trip to the library for books and movies, which is free- as long as I return them on time.
Do you have a pet?
Not anymore. I used to have a beta (that’s a fish) named “Pat the Fish”. I also had one named “Spot the Fish”. After Pat and Spot died we moved to an apartment that was too cold for tropical fish, so I never got any more.
What type of clock do you like better? Analog or digital?
Digital is my favorite. I have trouble reading analog clocks.
What is your favorite type of animal…non-mammal?
What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
I don’t get embarrassed that often and I’m also very good at blocking out memories I don’t like. So I guess I really don’t remember. The last time I was embarrassed though was at work. One of my coworkers shouted at me and I got upset and started crying. I managed to leave the room first so only my boss and some girl I don’t know ended up seeing me cry, but it still made me feel really bad. I had to sit for a while talking to my boss about having a bad day and being overtired before I could feel better and go back to work.