BSC Trains Desperately Needed Medical Lab Techs | Bismarck State College

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BSC Trains Desperately Needed Medical Lab Techs

BY KIM SINGER



The COVID-19 pandemic has put healthcare workers in the spotlight. BSC’s 40th graduating class of medical lab technicians entered the workforce in December 2019 and January 2020 just in time to help battle the pandemic.

Mari Volk, dean of Current and Emerging Technologies, said many BSC graduates work at hospital, clinic and state health department labs where they help validate test methods, prepare and run tests, and report results to physicians and authorities.

Their work is often done behind the scenes, yet they play a critical role. “The big thing with lab testing is you don’t realize how much of a physician’s decision is based on what we’re doing in the laboratory,” Volk said. “During this time of considerable uncertainty, laboratory professionals, including medical laboratory technicians, work hard to ensure patients receive timely, accurate results.”

As a result of the even greater need for trained laboratory professions during the pandemic, state officials requested technicians come out of retirement to help. Volk responded to the need by volunteering at the North Dakota Department of Health State Laboratory.

Medical laboratory technicians were in high demand prior to the pandemic. “Everybody who’s graduated from this program and wants a job in the lab has one. With baby boomers retiring, hospitals hire even if they don’t have openings, because they will need them,” said Volk. Industry partners have taken an active role in the MLT program by donating supplies and equipment. Sanford Health in Bismarck lends financial support by providing adjunct instructors and the program director.

Recruiting students for BSC’s program and making it as convenient for working students as possible has always been a priority for Volk and Tracie Seibel, the program’s clinical coordinator. “We have redesigned the program to be more accessible to the working student. Lectures are held with two options for attending – in person on campus or online synchronous. Also, laboratories will be on campus all in one day.”

The program moved to the new BSC Health Sciences building this fall. Volk said the new area emulates a medical laboratory, so students become familiar with the setting prior to their clinical internship. “Our new location is more conducive to learning with a separate laboratory and lecture hall. This will also allow BSC to explore other health care programs, like our diagnostic medical sonography program that will be starting this fall. With this redesign, we will also have dedicated areas for the laboratory specialties, including a phlebotomy area to practice blood drawing skills.”

BSC’s program has a reputation for successfully preparing students for certification. “Employers like to hire our students, because they know they’re well trained, they’re job ready, they are top notch,” said Seibel. For the past five years, BSC medical laboratory technology students have had a first attempt certification exam pass rate of 100 percent. The program has been equipping students well since it began 40 years ago, and has maintained an overall first attempt pass rate of 97 percent.

“I am overwhelmingly proud, because not only can I now be part of this as the dean, I’m part of it as a graduate of a program that has been providing outstanding lab techs to the lab industry for 40 years,” said Volk.

For more information about this program, visit our Medical Lab Technician Program Page.