A good day for Sunny Schemery is one that includes looking at bacteria under a microscope. “My friends ask, ‘Why do you want to look at blood and body fluids?’ and I say, ‘because it’s fun.”
The fun she’s having as a Medical Laboratory Technology (MLT) student at the College of Southern Maryland is providing Schemery, 22 of Leonardtown, with the skills she needs for a high-demand healthcare career.
Projections from the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the job outlook for medical and clinical lab technologists and technicians is expected to increase at 22 percent between 2012 and 2022 to meet the need for an estimated 70,600 new jobs. To meet the growing demand, CSM is offering a Medical Laboratory Technology (MLT) associates degree program that has earned accreditation from the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).
“Accreditation is a means of external review that provides assurance to our students that the program meets national education standards. This accreditation means that our students are getting the training they need to be successful,” said CSM Health Sciences Division Chair Dr. Laura Polk. “Students are getting the academic and practical education they need to be effective in the profession.”
CSM’s two-year program, including one summer session, prepares students to work as a member of a diagnostic healthcare team that performs routine and automated procedures under the supervision of a medical technologist or pathologist. MLTs perform tests that include complete blood counts, urinalysis, cross matching blood for transfusion, identifying pathogenic organisms and chemical analysis of blood and other body fluids. Graduates can apply to take the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification exam to obtain national certification as a medical lab technician. To date, CSM graduates have a 100 percent pass rate for ASCP certification and a 100 percent employment rate.
Each fall, a new cohort of MLT students begins the program and moves through their coursework together. A major aspect of the program is hands-on training through clinical rotations in a hospital clinical laboratory at Calvert Memorial Hospital, University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital and MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, with more clinical sites being added.
“In this field, technicians work in close proximity in a lab setting. By creating a cohort, or family-like atmosphere when students are going through the program, they are learning the soft skills that will be necessary for them to be successful in the workforce,” said MLT Program Coordinator Tiffany Gill MA, MT (ASCP).
To Shantel Hernandez of Waldorf, a mother of three children under the age of 11, the program is extraordinarily intense but “awesome.”
“Going through a program as taxing as this is easier with a group of friends,” said Hernandez. She said that her classmates have become fast friends who are encouraging and helpful. “The faculty [members] are there for students, making sure that we have all the information we need to be successful.”
Hernandez completed her first year of the program and is working through the summer session. This fall her cohort will begin clinical rotations. Once she completes the program, Hernandez plans to search for a job and eventually work toward a bachelor’s degree.
“The associates MLT program is a great foundation to build on,” she said.
Also in the cohort with Hernandez is Schemery, who started at CSM in 2009. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do [as a career] and through pre-nursing courses found that I had a passion for microbiology,” Schemery said. When she learned of the MLT program she applied, and one of the things that appealed to Schemery when she researched the degree was the high demand for technicians.
At first hesitant about the rigor of the program, Schemery said that she knew she would have to “study, study, study.” “I set my mind to succeeding and I have done better than I thought,” she said. Schemery plans to apply for MLT jobs after she graduates in May 2015 and to pursue a bachelor’s degree online while she works.
For information on CSM’s Medical Laboratory Technology Program, visit http://www.csmd.edu/hea/medicallabtech/.