The University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Medical Laboratory Technology Program celebrates Medical Laboratory Professionals Week from April 22 to 28, 2018.
Medical Laboratory Professionals Week highlights crucial members of the medical field that many people often overlook. While doctors and nurses provide bedside care in hospitals and clinics, medical laboratory technicians work behind the scenes, performing lab testing and providing results that are essential in diagnosing patients and treating and preventing disease. Over 70 percent of medical decisions are based in part on laboratory results. MLTs collect, process, and analyze blood samples and biological specimens and their test results often save lives.
There is a critical need for medical laboratory technicians across the medical establishment. Employment of healthcare occupations is expected to increase by 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, more quickly than the average for all occupations, and add about 2.3 million new jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics attributes this growth to an aging population and healthcare reform that should give more people access to health insurance.
“At UMPI, we’re celebrating Medical Laboratory Professionals Week in many ways stretching throughout the month of April,” Leigh Belair, UMPI Assistant Professor and Co-Director of the MLT Program of Maine, said. “Two different healthcare organizations visited with our MLT students this month to talk about their staffing needs, benefits, and incentive bonuses; the MLT Program and the Clinical Laboratory Management Association recently hosted a statewide informational meeting on the profession for high school guidance counselors; and MLT faculty are visiting local high schools to share information about the laboratory profession.”
The MLT Program of Maine is a collaborative program sponsored by UMPI and the University of Maine at Augusta in cooperation with hospitals across the state that serve as clinical affiliates. Students take courses for two years to earn an Associate of Science in MLT awarded by the home campus. All MLT lecture courses are available through videoconferencing at locations statewide. Graduates of the program then take the certification exam administered by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) or the American Medical Technologists (AMT).
The MLT program prepares students for careers as medical laboratory technicians in settings that include hospitals, clinics, public health facilities, physician office laboratories and forensic laboratories. Students in Aroostook County have many local options for completing their final clinical practicum, such as TAMC, Cary Medical Center, Houlton Regional Hospital, and Northern Maine Regional Hospital.
“Medical Laboratory Professionals Week provides us with a unique opportunity to showcase the lab profession and the critical need for lab professionals in this area,” Belair said. “We’re incredibly proud of the work we do at UMPI and throughout the state to prepare medical laboratory technicians for the medical field and we hope our celebration encourages people to learn more about this profession and the great opportunities it can afford them.”
The job outlook for laboratory professionals is excellent, according to Belair. Graduates of the MLT program are often hired before they finish their clinical training and the program has an average 3-year graduate placement rate of 97%. The starting base salary range for an entry-level MLT is between $18.50 and $20, with shift differentials available for weekend, second, and third shifts. To help with recruiting efforts, many hospital organizations are offering incentives such as sign-on bonuses and relocation funds.
Students enrolled in the MLT Program are eligible for funding through the Maine Career Center’s Competitive Skills Scholarship Program (CSSP). For those students that qualify, funding is available for up to three years and students can receive up to $6,000 per year for a full-time student and $3,000 per year for a part-time student.
Medical Laboratory Professionals Week began in 1975 under the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) and takes place during the last full week of April each year. MLPW gives the profession a unique opportunity to increase public understanding of and appreciation for clinical laboratory personnel.