They say the best way to learn is to teach, and for the first time ever, licensed laboratory technologists at URMC will do just that through a new clinical laboratory technology program.
The program will provide full-time clinical lab education for prospective medical technologists, with lectures and hands-on clinical training leading to an advanced certificate. The University and the New York State Education Department have approved the program, and it will welcome its first class of students in fall 2017.
Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in the biological, chemical or physical sciences and have completed the coursework required for state licensure.
The University had previously partnered with Rochester Regional Health System (RRHS) to provide clinical training to students who received the lecture and exam portion of their training at Rochester General Hospital (RGH), but will now provide both facets of training on its own.
Vicki Roberts, program director and manager of education for the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, says the region needs every training program working at full capacity to fill a growing number of vacancies in the field.
“This is a benefit to the University and the region because it gives people who are unable to find a practical application for their degree entry into a licensed professional position,” Vicki says.
In 2006, New York State changed its licensing requirements for medical technologists (“med techs” or MTs). This law meant that staff who previously needed a B.S. degree in an applicable major must now complete 1-2 years’ worth of additional clinical training and pass a certification exam in order to be state-licensed.
While many MTs were “grandfathered” in when the law changed, others have balked at the new, more demanding educational requirements. This has made it more challenging than ever for employers to fill vacancies in the lab.
Leadership’s hope is that this new training program allows UR Medicine Labs to have a steady pipeline of trained, certified technologists to fill these vacancies as we grow and affiliate with more partners throughout the region—from Strong Memorial Hospital (SMH), Strong West and Highland hospitals, to medical campuses at FF Thompson in Canandaigua, Dansville, Wellsville and Hornell.
“UR Medicine’s need for additional licensed medical technologists could not be more urgent,” says Kathy Parrinello, chief operating officer of SMH. “This training program allows us to bring in current and prospective medical technologists to train in our excellent labs at SMH, graduate, and get their licenses so we can hire them into positions,” she adds. “We are grateful to Vicki and the entire team for their diligence and perseverance in bringing this program to fruition.”
The majority of lab staff at URMC is comprised of licensed MTs that work around the clock to perform a range of diagnostic tests. These tests help doctors learn what’s making patients sick and properly diagnose and treat them.
Med techs work in labs including Blood Bank and Transfusion Medicine, Microbiology, Chemistry and Hematology, Flow Cytometry and Bone Marrow Testing, Molecular Diagnostics, Surgical Pathology and more.
Geoffrey Harris (right) spent the last four years as Education Coordinator in the Hematology Lab. He’s one of many MTs that will serve as instructors in the new program.
“When everyone in a lab is an instructor and everyone teaches, it keeps people on their game,” Geoffrey says. “You realize this is a good thing for the whole lab and I think it makes everyone stronger.”
The new class will have between eight and twelve trainees who must complete 35 credits of non-clinical work and 720 hours of clinical experience before taking their certification exam.
People like Caroline Brown (right) know what it’s like to have a long path to licensure. She works in Clinical Microbiology, which is one of the largest labs at SMH—in terms of staffing and number of specimens.
When she started as a med tech at URMC, she simply had a B.S. degree. She took time off for family reasons and soon found that returning to work was not as easy as she’d hoped.
“In that timeframe, the licensing all came into being and I fell through the cracks,” Caroline says. “I had to do something in order to get back into the lab.”
She was accepted into the RRHS training program, which she completed, and later returned to UR as a licensed MT. Today she teaches trainees like herself who are hoping to grow their careers.
Teaching means MTs have new responsibilities on top of their regular workload, taking extra time and preparation to educate students.
For Caroline, that means strategically preparing live cultures days in advance so that students are able to simulate the work that licensed techs perform on a daily basis. This kind of prep is critical in making students’ experiences as authentic as possible so they are prepared to work in a lab.
Caroline says playing a part in this instruction is the best way to give back so others can have the same opportunity she did. “I feel for the future of the career in the lab,” she says. “We need people who want to learn and want to be here.”
The Medical Technologist program is now accepting online applications. For questions, contact Vicki Roberts at (585) 276-3688 or Vicki_Roberts@URMC.Rochester.edu.