“Nothing worth having comes easy and almost everything good in life requires some effort. A lot of effort. You have to keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground. Most importantly, always keep the faith … and nothing will be impossible for you.”
~ Kathleen S., Anderson College Graduate
Kathleen’s wise words, hit home for all of us, but they are directed to inspire those individuals living in Canada who have trained as a medical laboratory technologist (MLT) in another country and are looking to align their skills with Canadian standards. Anderson College understands the need for MLTs in our country and the wealth of talented healthcare professionals who move here with experience, simply needing to fill the learning gaps that will allow them to prepare for and write the Canadian Society of Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) certification exam.
Kathleen is a recent graduate of Anderson’s Internationally Educated Medical Laboratory Technologist (IEMLT) Bridging program, and she took the time to share with us her experience, the challenges faced and overcome and the rewards of persevering to achieve her amazing goals. Her reflection will inspire those looking to build a future in this field and offer you the insights you need to make an informed decision for your bright future.
Here is her story …
Kathleen graduated as an MLT back home in the Philippines, took her board exam and got her license but hadn’t practiced professionally. As she had family in Ontario, she decided to pursue her Canadian dream. Her sister had forged her way here four years before. So, Kathleen set to researching, saw the high demand for MLTs in this country and felt she might as well give it a try.
“Before I found Anderson’s IEMLT program I spent most of my time self-studying and reviewing my resources, books, and notes because I got an email from the CSMLS asking me whether I wanted to take a refresher course or a bridging program? I took the refresher course which is histology, and I was scheduled for the exam; then COVID happened. My exam got postponed and I decided to stay in Qatar where we were residing. I took the license exam there and was able to work as a laboratory technician, though my main role was to take swab samples and receive them.”
Kathleen came to Canada on a visitor visa and most of the programs she found required a student visa.
“Applying for a student visa is expensive. And then I came across the Anderson College sponsored ad for the IEMLT program, which is for internationally trained medical laboratory technologists. With my visitor visa and what I was looking for, it was a perfect fit and the fact that it is government funded was a real help.”
We asked Kathleen to share with us about her experience in the Bridging program. She was forthright and honest about what she faced and what it took to succeed.
“Okay, honestly, it was a bit challenging since it was a fast-paced program, and it was online. You have to manage your time properly because you have a lot of reading to do, and there are a lot of modules and exams. You need to pass all of them because there’s a required grade.
“Online classes are scheduled; they’re not every day. So, you have to really make an effort to understand and keep up. But it all worked well because we used Microsoft Teams, and could easily reach out to instructors, to ask any questions we had. Also, the Anderson staff assigned to us were extremely accommodating; they were patient and committed to sharing their knowledge with us. The IEMLT program helped me in so many ways, in terms of learning the Canadian standards.
“The program includes both theory classes and laboratory classes which require you to be physically present in Canada. So, during the first month of theory classes, I was back in Qatar. Then last year in November I came back here to Canada, continued with the online classes during the modules and in January 2023, we started our laboratory classes, and I was able to attend face to face.”
When asked what she found most valuable, Kathleen shared, “Personally, I found all the disciplines and courses to be valuable … and challenging, particularly hematology, transfusion medicine and chemistry. I now see why these three are referred to as the core labs, because it is here that you will use the scientific, technical, and medical principles required to perform and assess test results in the realm of healthcare.”
At Anderson College, we are dedicated to ensuring that each student feels supported, and we are grateful to receive student feedback. As a potential, or new, student, you want to know that you can count on our team to see you through to success.
Kathleen shared, “The instructors’ willingness to teach us, their time and effort to be with us during our classes scheduled online, were so helpful. They were always present and sometimes added sub schedules to support, when needed. If we felt we needed more time or more online classes or discussions regarding topics or more time during our laboratory classes, they were always there to accommodate us. They truly supported us every step along the journey.”
Does Kathleen feel prepared after this program?
“Absolutely. Learnings from the theory classes helped me prepare and understand my role as an MLT in Canada and I was able to apply the things I learned, both the theoretical learning and hands-on experience in the laboratory, right away in my job.”
Anderson’s career services department helped Kathleen polish her resume, they set up meetings for her, but she expanded her search and landed a job in British Columbia.
“I’m currently working at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre. Enrolling in and completing Anderson’s IEMLT Bridging program was a huge advantage for my current employment. In addition to the training I keenly understand Canadian laboratory standards, which also helped me pass my CSMLS exam. In this job I work in the core lab, so it’s hematology, transfusion medicine, and chemistry; I currently work in the hematology department.
“I’ve been able to apply what I learned, and the hands-on lab work was most powerful because that’s where I first got to apply the skills I was learning. Not I’m all set for working on the job.”
Kathleen shared with us what was most memorable and transformative for her.
“The laboratory classes with hands-on experience. Frank Kwa (MLT instructor) was a key part of my success because he was there to guide us in our research; I learned a lot about hematology from him. He taught us several techniques and offered his expertise about hematology, which is really useful now that I work in the hematology department. Also, Heng Sun (MLT Instructor), shared his expertise in chemistry with us, which helped me grasp a lot of things and encouraged me in achieving my CSMLS certification.
“I was grateful every time I had a meeting with Kim Alkalay and the team; they always checked up on us, made sure we were going okay. It could all be really tiring, they understood our stress and it just felt so good that they were there for us, even just online. You can reach out to people so easily.
“Without all of the instructors and staff at Anderson College I wouldn’t be where I am now, and I would not have been here in Canada at all. The people, my training, the government funding, the whole experience is a huge blessing because of the chance that was given to us. You’re all significant in my success.”
We couldn’t let Kathleen leave us without her sharing some direct advice for students who may be considering this program. Her advice is honest, eye opening and inspiring to say the least …
“Okay, I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. All I can say to aspiring Canadian IEMLTs is, it is hard. It’s going to be hard, and you’ll get tired, and you’ll feel stressed. As the old saying goes, nothing worth having comes easy and almost everything good in life requires some effort. A lot of effort. And unquestionably you have to go wholeheartedly into anything in order to achieve anything worth having.
“I understand how difficult it is and I understand that there will be struggles; I’ve been there, but you must battle for it. You have to fight for your dreams. Even if you fall seven times, 1000 times, you get back up no matter how many times you are knocked down and try again.
“There are no fast fixes in life. Perseverance and success do not have to be quick. All that matters is that one gives their very best and remains persistent. You have to keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground. Most importantly, always keep the faith even if that faith is as small as a mustard seed. It can move mountains. Let this be a reminder and nothing will be impossible for you.”
If you’re still determining if a career in healthcare aligns with your passion and interests, take our “Medical Professional Career Discovery Quiz”.
But if you’re inspired by Kathleen’s story and are looking to start your Medical Laboratory Technology career, or explore one of our other 30+ programs, just book a virtual appointment with an Admissions Advisor today and we’ll help you navigate your way.