MT/MLT Training Insights From Calif. University

MT training programs require additional resources to coordinate career placement

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CEO SUMMARY: Laboratory administrators from 15 San Francisco Bay Area hospitals recently approached their CEOs and requested a five-year funding commitment of $1.5 million to train and expand the supply of CLSs and MTs. One key element in this effort was the enthusiastic support of those local colleges and universities willing to restart dormant laboratory training programs.

Part Two of a Series

EDITOR’S NOTE: Part One of this series discussed the strategies and actions taken by 15 hospital laboratory administrators in the San Francisco Bay area to convince their CEOs to fund $1.5 million over five years to train clinical laboratory scientists and medical laboratory technicians. Part Two looks at CLS and MLT training from the perspective of a university offering such training programs.

WHEN HOSPITAL LAB DIRECTORS in the San Francisco Bay Area squared off to address the growing shortage of trained technical staff in their region, two-year and four-year colleges and universities were essential partners in the resulting plan.

The objective was to expand the number of clinical laboratory scientists (CLS) and medical laboratory technicians (MLT) in the southern area of San Francisco Bay. Following less than one year of planning and study, 15 hospital CEOs agreed to provide $1.5 million over five years to fund
recruitment and training of CLS and MLT personnel. (See TDR, October 6, 2002.)

“We were involved from the very beginning,” said Sally Veregge, Ph.D, Chairman, Department of Biological Sciences at San Jose State University (SJSU) in San Jose, California. “We were enthusiastic about the opportunity to restart the CLS training program at SJSU. It had been shut down during the state’s budget crunch in 1992.

Cost Of Training Med Techs

“This type of training program is expensive because it requires lots of support,” she added. “Budgets for a CLS training program cover a lot more than just classroom instruction.

“There are additional expenses in the classroom because expensive supplies and equipment are needed. The student/faculty ratio is low, raising the cost to educate a student. Government requirements add to the cost. The program also needs a coordinator. This individual handles recruitment of students, arranges their placement in hospital labs, works with government regulatory agencies, and coordinates all this with the colleges and universities,” said Veregge.

“For us to restart our med tech pro- gram, we needed at least a five-year funding commitment to cover these costs,” she continued. “During this time, SJSU will be working to line up other funding sources to cover this training on an ongoing basis.”

“Although we stopped our CLS training program in 1992, SJSU has always offered the pre-requisite classes,” observed Veregge. “So we have an untapped pool of B.S. graduates with those classes from which we can

Two-year colleges were also part of this project. “MLT training will be done at Hartnell College in Salinas and De Anza College in Cuppertino,” explained Veregge. “Discussions were required to coordinate MLT training programs so that graduates could move on to SJSU and obtain CLS certification. We wanted to create a career ladder for individuals interested in the clinical laboratory.”

Lots Of Student Interest

Student interest was immediate. “The hospital CEOs approved funding for med tech training in June. When our fall term started in late August, four students were enrolled here at SJSU,” noted Veregge. “We already have nine applicants for the winter term and interest in Fall 2002 is growing.”

Efforts to reactivate CLS training at SJSU revealed an unappreciated asset. “Although we stopped our CLS training program in 1992, SJSU has always offered the pre-requisite classes,” observed Veregge. “So we have an untapped pool of B.S. graduates with those classes from which we can recruit. As our program director contacts these people, she is getting very favorable responses.”

In fact, overall interest in CLS training at SJSU has been high. “This is true particularly of students in bio-sciences,” Veregge noted. “We also see people in the workforce who want to come back and get their CLS certification. That may be due to the weak economy here in Silicon Valley.”

Hospital CEO’s Decision

Veregge was quick to point out that it took considerable work to convince the 15 hospital CEOs that investing $1.5 million over five years to train CLS and MT personnel was justified. “There was a team of hospital lab managers and administrators who crunched numbers and did a detailed analysis of how much money the hospitals were already spending because of unfilled CLS and MLT positions in their laboratories,” explained Veregge.

“These numbers were compelling and the hospital CEOs could not ignore them,” she added. “Executive Vice President Barbara Harrelson at the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California and the community college administrators also played key roles in these presentations.”

This successful project to fund and expand med tech training in the south San Francisco Bay area can be copied by hospital lab administrators and pathologists in other regions. One critical success factor is to involve educators at local colleges and universities early in the process.

The rapid and significant response by students at SJSU to recruiting efforts for its CLS training program also confirms that a proactive marketing program touting the benefits of a career in the clinical
laboratory does attract students.

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