Students donate plasma to pay the bills

Si Ning Chan, a junior public health major, re-stocks the bookshelves during her shift at the Westminster College bookstore in the Shaw Student Center. In addition to working two jobs, Chan also donates plasma as a way to earn extra money. Photo by Bri Miller.

Si Ning Chan, a junior public health major, re-stocks the bookshelves during her shift at the Westminster College bookstore in the Shaw Student Center. In addition to working two jobs, Chan also donates plasma as a way to earn extra money. Photo by Bri Miller.

Once a week, Westminster College student Si Ning Chan watches a movie at Biomat USA Plasma Center while her blood is pulled and returned to her vein.

After finding out she could make money for donating plasma, Chan said she initially decided to donate for the money. On top of her two current jobs, she said donating plasma is an easy way to make extra cash.

“If you’re not afraid of needles, it isn’t a big deal,” Chan said. “It’s pretty laid back and you just have to sit there.”

The length of the donation process depends on the person, according to Chan, who said it has easily become part of her routine.

“I don’t ever feel drowsy during the day because they return the red blood cells back to you and there isn’t actually any blood loss,” Chan said. “I wouldn’t say it’s an enjoyable process, but it isn’t awful.”

Alex Dooley, a Westminster student and communication major, works at Biomat USA Plasma Center as a phlebotomist and lab technician. He said he sees a diverse group of people at the center, including a good number of students.

“Usually people are just trying to pay the bills and trying to find an extra source of income,” Dooley said. “The fact that we pay cash is the most important thing. It’s an easy way to get some cash outside of working. All you have to do is drink a lot of water and sit down in a chair for an hour or so.”

According to Dooley, the center has different pay scales. For the first five visits, the donor earns $50 each time. After that, donors go on to the center’s regular donor pay, which is $25 for the first donation of the week and $45 for the second donation of the week. Each month, the center gives out various bonuses, as well as referral bonuses.

Alex Gonce, a University of Utah student, also works at Biomat USA Plasma Center and said he’s heard various reasons for college students donating plasma at the center.

“If a student is a little short on money for rent or they need food money, they will come in,” Gonce said. “Some kids will use it for books or supplies, but a lot of the time we will see students using the extra money to do fun things with their friends.”

Gonce said a lot of students only donate plasma the first five times to get the $50 payback.

“People that come in for their first time are usually pretty nervous because it sounds terrifying, but we have really good phlebotomists and I don’t think we have had very many complaints,” Dooley said. “We have doctor tricks to make them stop thinking about being stuck with a needle and being sucked out like a juice box.”

According to Dooley, people often try to cheat the system by writing in false dollar amounts on monthly bonuses, referring people who have already been referred or going to the center to donate more times than is allowed in one week.

“You will be temporarily deferred if you start the donation process for a third time in a week,” Dooley said. “So, you will be deferred for as long as our medical staff deems it.”

Only donating twice a week gives the body enough time to reprocess and regenerate the plasma, according to Gonce.

“Don’t try and cheat money wise,” Dooley said. “We will catch you. If you know you deserve the cash, come see us.”