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UMPI establishes state-of-the-art MLT Training Center

Officials with the University of Maine at Presque Isle, area hospitals, donors, and students gathered on Thursday, Jan. 10 to celebrate the establishment of a state-of-the-art learning space for UMPI’s Medical Laboratory Technology Program. The new $200,000 MLT Training Center, created with support from a $50,000 Davis Family Foundation grant and a $15,000 Libra Foundation grant, helps address healthcare workforce needs while providing UMPI’s MLT students with a dedicated space that simulates a hospital setting for completing intensive clinical training.

“We are so pleased to see the establishment and dedication of this new space so we can provide the very best clinical training experiences for our MLT students and better meet Maine’s healthcare workforce needs,” UMPI President Ray Rice said. “Our MLT Program faculty work hard to prepare our students for the career field, and this new MLT Training Center greatly expands their ability to do that.”

The new 900-square-foot space, located in Pullen Hall Room 115, will serve as a combined lecture and lab space. The lab space itself will model a hospital lab and phlebotomy drawing station on a small scale, complete with lab benches with kemresin non-porous worktops, microscopes, centrifuges, and other biomedical instrumentation, sinks, eye wash and shower, cabinets for equipment storage, a phlebotomy drawing chair, a biosafety hood for microbiology training, incubators, a student lab information system (LIS) simulator, and a hematology analyzer. According to Leigh Belair, UMPI Assistant Professor and Co-Director of the MLT Program of Maine, the space will simulate a hospital lab setting during a regular 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. shift. Using the space in this way allows the MLT Program to reduce the clinical time that students spend in hospitals by six weeks.

“The challenge that many lab training programs face is the reduced number of clinical sites that perform all disciplines of laboratory medicine: microbiology and blood banking. This, coupled with staffing shortages, has led us to explore and develop intensive simulated training weeks on campus, thus decreasing the time of each rotation,” Belair said. “Having this dedicated space will provide students with the necessary hands-on training they need and allow us to increase the number of MLT students we can train each semester.”

Additionally, Belair said, the student LIS simulator will provide students with the opportunity to enter laboratory data, retrieve results, interpret patient results and quality control, and document information in the LIS.

“This real-life training will give students a head-start on learning how to utilize the LIS system, strengthen professional judgement skills when interpreting patient data, and potentially decrease the learning time in the clinical practicum and during the employee orientation period,” Belair said. “This will ultimately help meet staffing needs of the laboratory by filling open positions more quickly, thus further addressing workforce needs.”

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. The Associate’s degree program prepares students for careers as medical laboratory technicians in settings that include hospitals, clinics, and forensic laboratories. MLT Program of Maine graduates are often hired before they finish their clinical training and the program has an average 3-year graduate placement rate of 97%. Currently, 70 percent of the Aroostook County hospital lab workforce are MLT graduates.

Medical Laboratory Technology is considered a high demand, high wage field. The starting base salary range for an entry-level MLT is between $18.50 and $20, though, to help with recruiting efforts, many hospitals offer incentives such as sign-on bonuses and relocation funds. With Maine ranked as having the oldest workforce in the nation, and with the impending retirements of 40 percent of lab professionals nationally, the MLT Training Center will allow the MLT Program of Maine to increase capacity to address these workforce trends.

During the Jan. 10 celebration, event participants officially dedicated the Center, showcased a donor plaque that will be permanently displayed in the space, and held a ribbon cutting ceremony. Local hospital officials Greg LaFrancois, President of Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital, and Dr. Regen Gallagher, Chief Medical Officer at Cary Medical Center, discussed the importance of, and their hospitals’ investment in, the new training center. Debbie Roark, UMPI Executive Director of University Advancement and External Affairs, also announced the donors who made the new training center possible.

In addition to the major grant funding provided by the Davis Family Foundation and Libra Foundation, donors and supporters of the MLT Training Center include: Cary Medical Center, Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital, American Society of Clinical Pathology Foundation, Sysmex America, Inc., Houlton Regional Hospital, Northern Light Laboratory, Fisher Scientific/LAXCO, Joseph H. Roe, Jr., MD, and Maine New Hampshire State Society of American Medical Technologists.

“We are so grateful to our many donors for their generosity, and especially their trust and confidence in UMPI to turn our vision into reality,” Dr. Roark said. “Our partnerships—both statewide and in the local community—have allowed us to celebrate the creation of a new, modern facility to train tomorrow’s lab professionals.”

For more information about the new MLT Training Center or UMPI’s MLT Program, contact Belair at (207) 768-9440 or email leigh.belair@maine.edu.