If you deal with the many seasonal allergies affecting the Charlotte region, you may spend a lot of time with an allergy technician like Mary Gardner. But what is being an allergy technician like?
The beginning of her career
Mary started as an allergy technician in 1975, when she worked for Randolph Ear, Nose, and Throat Associates. In 1999, Randolph ENT merged with CEENTA.
Mary went to school with the intention of being an OB-GYN assistant. However, she started at Randolph at about the same time the practice was planning to start allergy treatment. She went to training with the doctors, and found she really liked allergy care. She has stayed with it all this time because, as she puts it, “I found my niche.”
What does an allergy technician do?
Allergy technicians test patients for reactions to any allergens, mix vaccines for immunotherapy, and provide injections. Unlike many medical assistants, allergy technicians work on their own. Even though a doctor does have to be in the building at all times for safety’s sake, for the most part an allergy technician has a lot of one-on-one time with their patients.
“Patients can be with us from to a month to a few years,” Mary said. “Sometimes you get very close to patients over the years.”
What training do they need?
Unlike general medical assistants or nurses, allergy technicians do not get specialized training in school. Instead, they train on the job. When a medical assistant or nurse begins allergy technician training at CEENTA, they start by giving patients immunotherapy injections. They learn when to increase or decrease doses as necessary, based on a patient’s need. They also learn to administer skin tests and mix vaccines. Allergy technicians also learn how to train their patients on any necessary precautions they may need to take for their own allergies. All this is done under supervision of a doctor.
Mary is appreciative of the on-the-job training provided to the allergy technicians, and works hard to pay it forward. She just became the lead trainer, and will help teach new technicians when they start working at CEENTA.
What is a typical day like?
The number of patients an allergy technician sees varies from day to day, Mary said. Mondays and Fridays are the busiest days, when they see about 30-40 patients. They do two to three tests in the morning and two to three in the afternoons. The rest are all patients receiving immunotherapy.
Mary sees patients of all ages, from 6-year-old children to patients in their 80s who never had allergies until they moved to Charlotte. Pollen season can start as early as January and run as late as November or even December, depending on when the area gets the first frost.
Allergy care can be very rewarding.
“Some patients say they have gone to see every doctor they can think of and they can’t find the problem, but once they come here we’re able to figure it out,” she said. “We have a very high success rate identifying and treating allergies. It’s great to see people say their treatments are working. That’s the reward.”
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