CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Education

April 23, 2014

Wallace State CLT program celebrates Medical Laboratory Professionals Week

HANCEVILLE — You never see them, but medical laboratory technicians play a vital role in the healthcare process. They are the ones who run tests on the specimens you provide, which help doctors confirm diagnoses and plan a course of treatment.

During April 20-26, these healthcare professionals will be recognized as Medical Laboratory Professionals Week is celebrated. It’s a time to honor the more than 300,000 medical laboratory professionals around the country who perform and interpret more than 10 billion laboratory tests in the United States every year.

Misty Wisener, an instructor as well as a graduate of Wallace State Community College’s Clinical Laboratory Technician (CLT) program, said medical laboratory technicians are essential to hospitals, physician offices and medical labs as they work behind the scenes to improve patient care.

As part-time instructor and part-time medical laboratory technician at Cullman Regional Medical Center, Wisener is witness to the education and training Wallace State students receive in the classroom and during clinicals.

“I can say they’re prepared and ready to take the next step in their education when they come to me at the hospital,” she said.

Two CLT students in the Wallace State program were recently recognized with American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)-Siemens Healthcare Diagnostic Scholarships for 2014.

“That scholarship is only awarded to 100 laboratory science students in the United States,” Wisener said. “I think that speaks well of Wallace State’s program that we have two recipients.”

Cheri Hallman is one of the recipients, and is completing her first full year in the two-year program. The Hayden mother of four children ranging in age from 2 to 16 expects to graduate from the program around the same time that her oldest son graduates from high school.

“I always stressed to my children the importance of getting a good education, to go to college so they can get good jobs,” said Hallman, who started a family soon after graduating high school in 1997 and has been a stay-at-home mom ever since.  “I looked around and said, ‘I’m such a hypocrite. I need to do what I’ve been telling them to do.’”

Having an interest in chemistry as a major, but wanting to find something that would put her in the workforce quickly, Hallman chose the Clinical Laboratory Technician program after learning about it.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” she said. “It was pretty close to the major I wanted. I’ll be running tests, help people behind the scenes.”

Though she admits it’s been hard juggling the duties of being a wife and mother with her duties as a student, Hallman said it’s worth it.  “I’m determined to do it,” she said. Plus, she said her children motivate her by asking her if she has any homework, if she’s completed it and how she did on her tests; a little role reversal, she said with a laugh.

The other scholarship recipient is Shauna Griffin, a 2010 graduate of Fairview High School who will begin her fourth semester in the CLT program this summer.  She said some of the things she likes about the Wallace State CLT program are that the teachers are very helpful and the smaller class sizes provide more concentrated time with instructors.

Griffin works as an aide at Marshall Medical Center North and said what she’s learned in the CLT program has helped her understand exam results she sees at work. She plans to use that knowledge and the degree she’ll earn at Wallace State to purse a four-year degree at Auburn University in Montgomery. Griffin said she would love to work in a large medical lab or even with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s very interesting,” she said of the work. “It’s difficult, but I think it will be a very rewarding field, to help figure out what’s wrong with patients and helping them get better.”

The job outlook for medical lab technicians is promising, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nationwide, employment of medical laboratory technicians is projected to grow 30 percent in the decade leading up to the year 2022. An increase in the aging population will lead to a greater need to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes through laboratory procedures, the BLS indicates. Also, recent legislation will increase the number of patients who have health care insurance, increasing patient access to medical care and thus the demand for laboratory services.

The median annual salary nationwide for medical laboratory technicians in May 2012 was $36,240, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $24,790 and the highest 10 percent earning more than $57,710, the BLS reported. In Alabama, the mean annual salary is $35,850.

 

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