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University of Maine Presque Isle marks lab professionals week

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Medical Laboratory Technology Program celebrated Medical Laboratory Professionals Week April 22-28.

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.

“Two different healthcare organizations visited with our MLT students … to talk about their staffing needs, benefits, and incentive bonuses,” said Leigh Belair, UMPI assistant professor and co-director of the MLT Program of Maine. “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.”

Campus officials said there is a critical need for medical laboratory technicians, with employment in healthcare occupations expected to increase by 19 percent from 2014 to 2024. The Bureau of Labor Statistics attributes the growth to an aging population and healthcare reform that should give more people access to health insurance.

UMPI and the University of Maine at Augusta sponsor the MLT Program of Maine 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. Courses are available through videoconferencing at locations statewide. Graduates then take the certification exam administered by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists or the American Medical Technologists.

“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,” said Belair.

The program prepares students for careers as medical laboratory technicians in hospitals, clinics, public health facilities, physician offices and forensic laboratories. Aroostook County students may complete their final clinical practicum at several hospitals, including The Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle, Cary Medical Center in Caribou, Houlton Regional Hospital and Fort Kent’s Northern Maine Regional Hospital.

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 three-year graduate placement rate of 97 percent.  

Students enrolled in the MLT Program are eligible for funding through the Maine Career Center’s Competitive Skills Scholarship Program (CSSP). Those who qualify may access funding 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.

For more information, contact Belair at (207) 768-9440 or leigh.belair@maine.edu, or visit http://www.ascls.org/.

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