Learning to draw blood can be intimidating, admits College of the Mainland phlebotomy graduate Lori DeNileon, especially when, after learning on a dummy, students begin to practice on each other.
“It is nerve-wracking when you see the needle coming toward you,” she said.

Drawing blood from each other and discovering more about the workings of the bloodstream were just part of the COM fall phlebotomy class’ experience. They also shared pizza and life lessons after class.
“We became close,” said DeNileon. “We were like one big family. [Instructor Tariss McGilberry] was like a mama bear. If we weren’t there, she’d be worried and call or text. You’re not just a number.”
Continuing a two-year COM trend, all the graduates of the COM fall phlebotomy class have passed the national exam to become certified phlebotomy technicians. Program director Vera Schoppe attributes the graduates’ accomplishments to their dedication and to McGilberry’s skills and commitment.

“We have a great instructor dedicated to student success. Our students graduate ready to work,” said Schoppe.
Before teaching at COM, McGilberry worked in an operating room as a registered medical assistant, and she brings her wealth of experience to the classroom.
“Teaching is what I love,” McGilberry said. “I just try to make it fun. If you make it fun so students enjoy coming to class, they try harder.”
For DeNileon, McGilberry made the difference.
“She’s a little cheerleader for all of us. She helped you find confidence in yourself,” said DeNileon. “For me, that’s what made her different. She goes the extra mile and wants to see you succeed.”
DeNileon needed the encouragement, she said.
“For me to come back [to school] in my mid-40s, I didn’t think I’d get it. I almost quit,” said DeNileon.
She talked to Schoppe about her mid-program fears.
“Vera [Schoppe] told me, ‘You can do it,’” DeNileon said.
She persevered, practicing with McGilberry’s guidance until she perfected her skills. Then came the daunting 110-question national certification exam. After finishing it, she could not summon the nerve to check her score. She asked McGilberry, who was waiting outside, to tell her the results. When McGilberry told her she’d passed, DeNileon was overwhelmed.
“I hit the floor on my knees and started crying because I was so happy and excited I passed. She started crying too. I said, ‘I could not have done this without you.’ She said, ‘No, you did this yourself.’ She’s one of the rare ones,” DeNileon said.
DeNileon stays in touch with McGilberry and Schoppe, who have continued to offer tips and suggestions as she’s begun her job search.
“Even though we’re done, [McGilberry]’s still there for us. I wish there was another class I could take from her,” said DeNileon.