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All You Need to Know About Medical Lab Technology – A Student’s Insight

By September 8, 2023No Comments
Medical Lab Technology

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
~ Confucius

Finding our passion and following it is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and those we serve with our talents. But even if you set your sights on an in-demand career, one that truly makes a difference in the lives of others, like becoming a medical laboratory technologist (MLT), understanding what the program entails and what it takes to succeed, can be daunting. We know that no matter how we may rave about our accredited Medical Lab Technology program, you want your details from the source – a student, just like you, aligning interests with a leading-edge program and pursuing their dream to be an MLT.

We had the distinct opportunity to interview Jianjie, a student just months away from wrapping up his placement (at the time of this post). We asked him how he came to discover Anderson, the process for applying, what he learned, had to persevere through and the advice he has for you as future graduates. His insights are in valuable and may just be what you need to make an informed decision as you explore or embark on a job you love, so you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

Jianjie’s Motivation

Working retail may have served Jianjie for a time but he wasn’t a lifer in that career.

“I worked in retail for about three years. I didn’t really like it and people who worked with me were always saying that I am warmhearted, that I really help people and that I should probably work in healthcare. So, I started researching programs that I could take while still working. MLT spoke to me. Then COVID happened.”

Jianjie decided to help and worked at LifeLabs, doing COVID swabs for those in need and, as fate would have it, met some MLT professionals along the way.

Jianjie Discovers Anderson

“They told me about the program, and I started applying for MLT educational opportunities. One of my coworkers told me that Anderson College had just launched a new MLT program. I found the info I needed on the website, like the Casper test and submitting high school transcripts. I filled out my info, and an admissions advisor, Sandy, called me and told me what I had to prepare in order to apply.”

Jianjie didn’t get an offer from Anderson College right away, and almost accepted another to attend a public institute. And then Sandy called and let him know that he met the requirements.

“When comparing Anderson College and Cambrian College, Anderson was closer to home. Also, Anderson takes about 30 students a year, compared to 50 for Cambrian. I preferred the fact that Anderson is a private college as I feel like private colleges are better than public colleges.

“I tend to feel like private college instructors, and the college in general, care more about you. I think it’s because of the class size; in a larger class, instructors have less time to connect and concentrate on individual student’s needs. This is especially important studying MLT, as we need a lot of hands-on. I knew, for someone like me, who’s never worked in healthcare, I would have so many questions.

“At Anderson College, the class is small, and I really appreciate the fact that our instructors really care about us as students. If you have questions or don’t understand something, they will instruct you and show you how to do it by hand.”

Anderson’s Application Process – Step by Step

“At first, I went online and looked for the requirements. I saw that they require us to take an entrance exam, another test called Casper, and they also asked for my high school diploma and scores. I took the first test online at my convenience. The other one I had to make an appointment for.

“As English is not my first language, answering all the questions in a specific timeframe was really tough, but I did it!

“The last piece for application was contacting my high school for my transcripts. I had to go through an agency so they could certify those documents from my home country. It’s not really tough; it just takes a bit of effort and time.”

Jianjie’s Learning Experience

“Most of the theoretical classes were during the first year. I’m in the second year now and the whole second year is like a practicum. The first year has three semesters. They cover different theories throughout the year. The first semester focuses on the basics, like basic chemistry, basic microbiology, some introduction of microbiology, and hematology, anatomy and physiology. The second semester covers subjects like transfusion medicine, chemistry, microbiology, histology and hematology.”

Jianjie found it busy, stressful at times, but doable if a student manages his/her time well and applies themself to what’s required.

“I remember one day that we had a micro lab practical session, and then we came back to the classroom right away and did the hematology exam online, on the computer. We had to learn to think quickly and switch gears. It was pretty stressful, but if you work hard and pace yourself, you will be okay.”

The Most Interesting Bits – Applying Your Skills in the Lab

“I really liked transfusion medicine because it’s very logical. You have to think about it and there is a lot of problem solving involved. Once you get good at it, you’ll find it really interesting. In the lab, you can actually do a test to determine a person’s blood makeup; so, it’s really fun.

“I also worked in microbiology last year, during practicum hours. I find this more interesting than school just because you get exposed to the clinical side of things, applying the skills you learned in the classroom. Suddenly, all those labs make sense. It is more interesting because you have to consider the patient’s history and look at what is actually going on with the patient. And then, after assessing all that, you go back to your microbiology samples, and you get to do the diagnosis.

“So, if you’re interested in this program, it’s helpful to know that what we learn and do in school is the hardest part, but when you go into the clinical portion of the program, that’s when it gets really interesting.”

A Reflection on Anderson’s Faculty and Administrative Staff

“Honestly, they’re really helpful. If I have something I need or need to take time off, I just need to write an email to my program chair, and they’re ready and willing to help you. At times, I had questions on a subject that I didn’t understand; I would send an email to talk to them and they would help me to understand that topic.”

Jianjie shared an example of what he needed from the Anderson team, what kind of support he received and what it meant to him.

“We would often have a review of the questions that people get frequently wrong. But for me, sometimes, I had different questions wrong and felt I needed help understanding this material. I would talk to my instructors about it because I wanted to correct myself and not make the same mistakes again and again.

“I would write emails to them to make appointments when I needed. They would give me a time slot to talk to them privately, on the computer or in their office. We would go over the questions I was concerned about, and they would ask me to reflect on what I thought about these questions and where I may have gone wrong. Then they helped me figure out how I was going to correct them for next time, and for my long-term learning.

“This support was essential for helping me study and succeed in the program.”

Insights on Placement

“At the beginning of the program, we were given a list of the placement sites. We could choose from this pool. We had to indicate where we wanted to go for our placement, our first choice, second choice and third choice. During second semester our instructors start assigning us to our placement site.

“For me, the first place I chose was close to where I live in Toronto, but it was really a hot spot because there were six or seven people wanting to go there too. My second choice was in Ottawa where I am right now. My instructors talked to me and asked me if I would be okay to go to Ottawa and I said, “Yes!” because I’m from there. Before I moved to Toronto, I lived in Ottawa for six years, so I have very close friends, like a family, who helped me there. I could have put my name in a draw for the Toronto placement, but I decided to just go to Ottawa directly.

“My Ottawa placement was a really good experience, because it had two different sightings for my microbiology and pathology. They have the biggest lab in the Ottawa General Hospital and their lab serves Eastern Ontario regional hospitals. 26 hospitals send them their samples. So, it was really busy and we experienced a lot of different things. There are big machines; it’s really automated and there are so many things happening in the lab all the time. Now I’m in a lab in Queensway Carlton and this lab is also interesting because the core lab is all-in-one!”

Jianjie will finish placement in November 2023. We can’t wait to see where this opportunity leads him next!

Thoughts About Accreditation and Certification

When Jianjie began the program, Anderson College’s MLT program had a ‘pending’ accreditation, meaning that our college had applied, submitted all the rigorous paperwork demonstrating our alignment with the criteria, but we needed the final seal. Jianjie knew this, but of course was infinitely relieved and elated (as were we) when the news of the program being officially accredited by EQual, Accreditation Canada came.

“I knew Anderson was already registered, but back then, of course I wondered if they could get accredited. It was quite amusing because whenever you’d open the news, there were discussions about other colleges having programs where graduates were not getting the accreditation they deserved. I agreed and felt for them. And honestly, we were actually a bit worried about it. None of us classmates really talked about it, but deep down, we were all, of course, concerned.

“As things progressed, I got to know some friends who worked in the field, and they had the inside track. I mean, our MLT society is quite small, so word gets around. One of my friends told me that our program chair was the vice president on the board of Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS). That piece of information made me feel a lot better.”

As a result of being in the process of working toward EQual accreditation, our team and students had to provide the foundational information and documentation to demonstrate our program quality.

“Everything that we did in school, tests, or assignments, or in the practicum was recorded and was submitted to Accreditation Canada for review. It was great training and that’s why, while we were in school, and even now during practicum, we ensure our records are clear and precise.

“And now this MLT program is accredited, and we are all thrilled! It’s really exciting. With this training at Anderson, we also now have the knowledge to challenge the national CSMLS certification exam.”

Jianjie’s Advice for Future Students

“This program demands a lot of time commitment. Personally, I didn’t have much time to hang out with friends. My Saturdays and Sundays were usually spent at home or in the library. Time is crucial, and you also need effective communication with instructors. If something isn’t clear, talking to your instructor is essential to ensure you grasp the concepts. This becomes even more important during the practicum. There’s a lot of communication going on, not just between colleagues, but also with doctors, nurses, and others in the hospital. Good communication skills are vital. You have to handle things, like reporting critical results and addressing issues like missing samples. It’s quite rewarding though, especially when you graduate. You’ll have a solid foundation. Plus, in this field, there’s always more to learn. You need to stay updated because things change year after year. Having a good sense of strategy helps too. If you come into this with the right mindset, you can succeed in the program.

“Communication is key, especially in a hospital setting. And don’t even talk about having a personal life. You’ll be getting calls all day long. You have to talk to customers and deal with critical situations. Like today, we had a critical potassium value. I had to contact the medical officer and call different floors, sometimes multiple times. Hospital work is all about communication, and you have to be on your toes. It’s also crucial to pay attention to the details. Forgetting even a small thing can have a huge impact on patient care.

“The hospital environment is quite unique. It’s hard to understand from the outside. It’s interesting because I came from an engineering background before switching to this career. Back then, I thought it was just about inputting data into a machine and getting results. But in a hospital, there are so many factors at play. It’s not that straightforward. You need to ensure quality control, document everything meticulously, and be prepared for unexpected outcomes. Patient care is the priority, and it’s different from what most people think.”

Jianjie Final Words for You

“Personally, I really enjoyed the experience. If students can handle the learning process and truly have a passion for the subject, they’re more likely to excel in the program. At the beginning, it might be a bit challenging and even stressful. I mean, I distinctly remember feeling stressed every day, thinking about what’s due tomorrow or next week. In January of this year, we had this intense period where we had about three exams daily. It was pretty overwhelming, and I recall thinking about how close those exams were.

“I can summarize this though, because having regular exams actually aids in retaining knowledge. It forces you to keep things fresh in your mind through consistent studying. It’s a way of validating your learning, making sure you really understand the material. Without exams, it might be easier to procrastinate, but when you have these milestones, you’re motivated to learn continuously.

“In terms of advice for this program, I’d recommend not leaving everything to the last day. There’s a lot of terminology and memorization involved. I’d say about 70% to 80% of the program is about memorizing, and maybe around 25% involves understanding the concepts. Critical thinking comes into play, but it’s a smaller portion, like 10% or so. Critical thinking comes from a deep understanding of the material and how things work. Relying solely on memorization for critical thinking might be challenging because you won’t be able to connect the dots between theory and application. And if you start cramming at the last minute, it’s likely you won’t grasp the majority of what you’re studying.”

We deeply appreciate Jianjie’s powerful insights on our MLT program. We are proud to say he was one of the driven students who helped us in achieving EQual-Accreditation status. We also know that, should you take his advice to heart, you too can excel in this program and thrive in a healthcare career that is desperately needed and highly rewarding.

If you’re still wondering if this program choice is for you, take the “Anderson College Career Training Readiness Quiz”.

But if you’re ready to leap in and launch a career in Medical Laboratory Technology, or one of our other 30+ programs, book a virtual appointment with an admissions advisor today. We here to help you navigate every step along the way

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