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Med. Tech. school enviroment vs Lab. working enviroment. [Jul. 3rd, 2009|01:16 pm]
Medical Technologists
I'm glad to have found this site, I though there was no place out there for Med. Techs to exchange experiences.
Now, this is my issue.
I'm 4 weeks away from finishing a Med. Tech. program and about 6 weeks from taking my board exam, but during the past school year my classmates and I had been exchanging feelings of discontent about our schools' training techniques and how they will affect us once we hit the real world.
Our school schedule run lectures and rotations simultaneusly. We we're in lab in the morning for about 4 hours and lecture in the afternoon for about 3 hours. Due to the obvious time constrictions, our lab rotations are more focused on execution and production than correlating lectures with clinical work (at least that's how we fell them). This make everybody think  that we were training just to work as a "line production worker".  Also, in the rotation areas, we were treated as if we were uncompetent workers rather than sudents. Our questions were mostly anwered with the likes of: " you don't you know that"? or "you should know that already", moreover, with an attitude of humiliation.  Is this a common practice in Med. Tech. schools or do we just happen to be in a bad school?
Right now, I'm feeling that it was a big mistake switching from Pharmacy to Medical Technologist; I'm just hoping that everything will be different once I dive completely into the field.  

Here are some questions:
I was told before that Lab. professionals were not friendly people, but I was not expecting that to be true (sadly in our school program it is true). Is it every lab working enviroment  as uncomfortable and unprofessional as ours? 
Am I going to have the opportunity to "re-train"some of my weak areas once I start working? I mean, I never got to issue any blood product from blood bank (go figure), or am I expected to start producing  20 test per minute right away? 
Are turn around times more important than the quality of the tests? Or is it just in our hospital? It seems to be a conflicting issue to me.
Lastly, I'm studying for the board, but my lecture notes do not covered everything asked on the practice questions. Does anybody knows any good review-book or website that could help me with my studying?
I am very much thank full for any reply.

[User Picture]From: apotropaic
2009-07-03 06:47 pm (UTC)
I hope you don't already have a job lined up at this lab - it sounds awful!

Alas, in terms of correlating lectures with clinical work, I truly feel as if that is the school's responsibility, not the person training you in the lab. Of course it's really really important to know the theory, but when you're actually in the lab, it's the practical you need to be more concerned with that. Different departments will require different amounts of applied knowledge from what you've learned in school. For example, I work in microbiology - I use my knowledge from school every single day. It might be different for someone working the chemistry line.

I don't believe you should have experienced the humiliation that you have. I work in a teaching hospital, so along with med tech students, I'm constantly teaching infectious disease fellows, pathology residents, and pediatrics residents. They all have different amounts of knowledge in the field, and teaching is tailored to each. I do feel like there is some basic knowledge that people should have on their rotations, but more importantly to me is that people retain knowledge. If you don't know something important initially, I won't hold it against you... but I will later if it's something I've gone over thorougly and you don't remember it 2 days later.

From my experiences in microbiology, there really is an emphasis on both quality of turn-around time and quality of the tests.

As for training, in my department we realize that training in micro (which is very hands-on) takes at least a year to be comfortable with the basics.

So although I can't speak for every hospital and every program, I would strongly encourage you look for a job at a hospital other than the one you trained at.

As for studying materials, I highly recommend "Clinical Laboratory Science Review: A Bottom Line Approach." Most of the people I went to school with used it, and we always recommend it to our students. I also used the "Quick Review Cards for the Clinical Laboratory Sciences Examination" and found those to be very helpful.

Good luck!

(edit: I feel like I should state that my med tech schooling was arranged very differently - we had about 2.5 months of classes, followed by 2 months of rotations, then another 2.5 months of classes and 2 months of rotations.)

Edited at 2009-07-03 06:51 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: m0nkeygrl
2009-07-03 10:15 pm (UTC)
I'll second "Clinical Laboratory Science Review: A Bottom Line Approach". That is an awesome book! I did that and the simulation of the computer tests that came with the BOR study guide. I remember they were on 3.5" floppy disks. Holy shit am I that old...?

To the OP: It sounds like you're just running into a high concentration of unfriendly people. Most of the people I've worked with when I've first started a lab job have been nice and helpful. Still there will always be one or two assholes, but that's everywhere in life, not just labs. :) Don't worry too much about your "weak areas", you won't be cut loose to do anything until you're fully trained and competent (at least you shouldn't be). No one will expect you to jump in and perform like someone who's been there for years. The S.O.P. manual will be your bible.

Good luck on your test and with finding a job!
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[User Picture]From: apotropaic
2009-07-04 10:10 pm (UTC)

re: the floppy disks

Pshaw - I'm older than you! Mine was on CD though, because I didn't do the med tech program until I was nearly 30!
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[User Picture]From: kejlina
2009-07-04 02:05 pm (UTC)
"I feel like I should state that my med tech schooling was arranged very differently - we had about 2.5 months of classes, followed by 2 months of rotations, then another 2.5 months of classes and 2 months of rotations."

And mine is arranged differently from both of you :)

I get two years of labs and lectures, but the labs are on campus and are usually run by the same professors we have for lectures. Third year is clinical rotations, where we'll be in the lab for 8 hours a day. We don't get lectures during this period but we do have required reading and some online quizzes to do.

But I'm in Canada and my program is for a three-year diploma instead of a four-year degree, so there's that. I think our degree programs are run similarly, though, with the fourth year consisting solely of clinicals.
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From: gto_72
2009-07-04 04:44 pm (UTC)
Wow! kejlina your program sounds superb when compare to mine. Can you beleive that some of the students in the class previous to mine were actually my teachers in some of my rotations. They gave me bad grades for stupid things like the way I answered the phone. Can you beleive that? I had a 3.75 GPA when I apply to this program. Now, I'm even afraid to see it. I just want my degree with no grades whatsoever.
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[User Picture]From: apotropaic
2009-07-04 10:07 pm (UTC)
And now I feel like I need to clarify again! I did a post-grad program, so my degree is actually in psychology. The med tech program was a 1 year program, in which I have a certification and which made me eligible to take the ASCP certification exam for med techs.

There aren't very many 4-year med tech programs left in the US, most are either a single year after a degree has already been rewarded, or it's the last year of a 4-year degree program, with the students often being sent away to schools like the one I attended to complete that last year, but earning their degree from their home university. (whew - forgive the run-on sentence!)
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[User Picture]From: kejlina
2009-07-04 10:27 pm (UTC)
Ohhh okay. We have one-year programs too for technicians :) the three and four year programs are for the technologists.
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[User Picture]From: apotropaic
2009-07-04 10:32 pm (UTC)
And here, you can do a MLT at at community college that does not require a bachelor's, although I believe they're usually 2 year programs, and you get your associate degree at the end.
OR you can do the "4+1" or "3+1" to be a technologist.
The "4+1" is when you get a bachelors in whatever subject you major in, then take the one year med tech program afterwards.
The "3+1" is when you do the med tech program as your last year of your bachelors, so that you degree is actually in med tech.
And then there are traditional 4 year programs, but it's rare for schools to offer them anymore, it seems.

And I'm sure there are other variations!

What sort of certification exam do you have to take? Is it still ASCP or NCCLS, or is it something different? Or do you have to take a certification exam at all?

(btw: icon love!)

Edited at 2009-07-04 10:35 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: kejlina
2009-07-05 04:25 am (UTC)
I'll have to take an exam from the CSMLS - the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science. The technicians also take an exam from them but it's my understanding that their exam covers less material than the exam for technologists.
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[User Picture]From: tzigana
2009-07-05 01:09 pm (UTC)
Is that the one with all the cartoons?

I gave away most of my study books to the next years class, as I had no intention of taking the other exam after I passed the first one, so I'm trying to remember them based on covers, and of course those apparently changed in the last 5 years.
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[User Picture]From: apotropaic
2009-07-05 09:43 pm (UTC)
Yup, it's the one with cartoons. =)
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[User Picture]From: tzigana
2009-07-06 06:30 pm (UTC)
Dude, that one was awesome. We used it throughout our internship, after we made them get us our own copies once they showed us a few pages.
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[User Picture]From: tzigana
2009-07-03 07:22 pm (UTC)
1. It really depends on the person. Lab does tend to get a lot more introverts, so it can take a little while for people to open up. That being said the majority of the people I've worked with were friendly, some just took longer to be obvious about it.

2. You will definitely be retrained when you start working. Every place will train you on an instrument or an area before you work there, and often will cue off of you and your comfort levels when deciding when to leave you on your own. (And people usually remember being new themselves and are open to questions, as long as you let them do their work as well.)

3. Turn around time vs. quality is an eternal debate. Basically everyone gets faster the longer they do something, so right away its better to concentrate on quality. That being said, its also important to notice where you waste time and work to cut that out. (I know someone who will stand and stare at the stainer in heme. . . It really doesn't run faster if you look at it, and you can get other stuff done in that time.)

4. Notes weren't enough for me. The best review books I had I ordered on-line, so I don't know if you have time for that. If you can afford it though, I recommend getting one. They'll touch on a few of the odder diseases that you might get a question on, and are very helpful with getting used to the style of questions.
This: http://www.amazon.com/SUCCESS-Clinical-Laboratory-Science-4th/dp/0135126487/ref=dp_ob_title_bk appears to be the updated version of my favorite study book. It explains the answers well, which is very good because sometimes they get the letter of the answer wrong in these books.
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[User Picture]From: kejlina
2009-07-04 02:20 pm (UTC)
"Our questions were mostly anwered with the likes of: " you don't you know that"? or "you should know that already", moreover, with an attitude of humiliation. Is this a common practice in Med. Tech. schools or do we just happen to be in a bad school?"

Actually, this is just a common practice of arseholes, and it doesn't go away, no.

Before I got into med lab science, I took a course to be a personal support worker (I think the american equivalents are called home health care aides or nursing assistants) and I remember during my clinical rotations, I'd get the same snarky response from the workers if I had any questions or doubts about anything.

It sucks and sometimes you get really crappy workers to be paired up with; in my rotations for support work, the PSWs we were assigned to would try to lose us on the ward because they didn't like working with students, and they would write us up for stupid things like washing our hands too much (!) or being too gentle (!!). One girl got written up for saying she was tired. Other times, workers would try to bait us into saying things we could get written up for (like asking "Don't you think Nurse Whatsherface is a bitch?" when really they're actually friends with Nurse Whatsherface and they're trying to see if you can answer a question like that profesionally). The trick to getting through it is to grit your teeth and bare it, never say anything bad about anyone, and try to be diplomatic with anything you say. Oh, and ALWAYS LOOK BUSY.

You'd think it'd get better after clinicals, and for the most part I'm sure it does, but you still got the occasional winner here and there. Now that I'm working in the support work field, I sometimes get the "Didn't they teach you how to do this at school?" question from clients. I got one today, in fact! I was at this woman's house for the first time (yes, I'm still working as a support worker while I'm making my way through school) and she asked me to make her bed. She was really fussy and exacting about how she wanted it made, though, and because I didn't psychically already know the exact way that she wanted her pillows arranged, she asked "Didn't they teach you how to make a bed in school?"

Well, yes, they did, but it'd be kinda creepy if the school knew enough to teach me that Mrs So-and-so likes her pillows under the top cover and Mr Whats-his-face likes having his cover pulled back to reveal the pillows while Ms Whoever abhors having her sheets tucked under the mattress. Since everyone likes doing things their own way and thinks the universe revolves around them, you'll probably get some version of "didn't they teach you to do XYZ?" anywhere you work.

This helps me; when someone says anything snarky to me, I just think to myself "I need to let this roll off me like water off a duck's back."

Then I start thinking about ducks and that makes me happy again because ducks are cute.

Anyhoo, good luck. Hang in there. It gets better. :)
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[User Picture]From: kejlina
2009-07-04 02:26 pm (UTC)
oh and PS. every single lab does things their own way. My hematology prof worked at one lab for 15 years and was very good at what she did, but then she went to another lab and she said that she felt like she didn't know anything because all of their procedures and protocols were different from the ones she was used to. So even if the teaching hospital teaches you one way to do a test, remember that it's not the only way and the next lab you work at may very well have their own method. Just keep the manual close by and be willing to ask questions :)
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From: gto_72
2009-07-04 04:37 pm (UTC)
Lol, I really like the ducks approach. I'll definitivelly used it.
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From: gto_72
2009-07-04 04:21 pm (UTC)


Thanks everyone for your replies. I'm very thrill about reading different experiences, especially good ones, from outside of our hospital.

Apotropic, guess what? I do have a lined job in this place, although not by choice... At the start of the program, we were offered a "scholarship" and we all applied for it. Well..., we all miracously qualified and received it. Later on, we found out that this "scholarship" was more like a sign in bonus. So now, if we don't accept an offered position in the hospital (which we were told first that a maximum of three out of seven may be hire, now we're all being hire) we are obligated to repay 100% of the so-called "scholarship" ($3000.00). How's that for a deal? :(
I'm glad you're a teacher and mentioned your old schedule cause I find ours' schedule somewhat odd. For example, In my second week in the program, I was receiving phlebotomy lecture (and practice), but simultaneously doing blood bank rotation with no blood bank knowledge whatsoever. I felt like a fish out of the water, to say the least. It's really strange that the rotations were not synchronized with the lectures; to me that would have being a better approach, but hey! what do I know? I will like to know your opinion on that matter. As well as tzigana and m0nkeygrl's opinions.

Another thing,(sorry, but I have to share this stuff or I'll go nuts) our teachers (in the rotations) were just "trainers"/regular empoyees who have to make time in between tests to give us some short instructions here and there, but never fully commited to spend continuos time with a student to make him/her feel more familiarize with the task at hand. This caused a trend in all of us, including me, who many times made mistakes over and over again until someone finally caught you doing it (and make you feel stupid, by the way). When the truth of the matter is, that the student received just partial instructions (or a different technique)to begin with. In adittion, we have to actually perform and REPORT real time patient testing (at three to four weeks of being new in a rotation) at a speed you would expect from a more experienced Medical technologists, moreover, take full responsibility for any mistake we made. I found this an unnecessary stressfull situation for a student, who's concentration should be pointed mainly at learning. It is obvious to me and my classmates that in this hospital we (the students) are being use as a primary source to alleviate an understaff issue; and that really enfuriate us. It is really frustating... Ohh! and there's more to share, so stay tuned...lol. Seriously, I really had to dig deep throughout this year to find the motivation to study and learn a job that I personally feel, and please excuse my language, is so *uck up. Hopefully, my opinion will change in the future, otherwise my career will.

Thanks again and Happy Independence day to everyone!!
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[User Picture]From: apotropaic
2009-07-04 10:03 pm (UTC)

Re: Thanks!!!

I thought I'd clarify my program again! I did a 1 year post-grad program, so my bachelor's is actually in psychology.

I received "tuition forgiveness" at my current job, which I applied for prior to entering the med tech program. My med tech schooling was paid for in return for a roughly 2 year commitment after school got out. So in some ways it was similar to the scholarship you received, except it was very up-front! =)
It may still be worth it for you to apply to other hospitals around your area. I don't know where you live, but I'm in Denver, and there are a lot of hospitals. And it was NOT unusual for other hospitals to buy out a tuition forgiveness contract in order to entice a student away from the hospital they have previously contracted with. It may be worth it for you to apply elsewhere and see if another hospital would be willing to pay that $3000 in exchange for a commitment.

As for teaching - I'm not officially a teacher, we just do TONS of it in my department! EVERYONE teaches. However, we do tend to be with the students continuously - after all, it's the trainer's name on the work, not the student's. But we try to gradually make the student more independent (still with supervision - we don't teach the students any computer work, as that is not the point of their rotation. However, that's a micro thing, I know that in other departments the computer work is necessary to perform the work).
Also, because we all teach, it's not unusual for the students from the previous year, now full-fledged med techs, to be teaching the current year's students. But it almost sounds like your program was so miserable that the people who have previously gone through the program take it out on the next class, since that's what they themselves had to go through. Kind of like "nurses eat their young," except not nurses!

So please, PLEASE look into other job opportunities! If something doesn't fit, look somewhere else! In my area, med techs are always in demand, and job security isn't an issue. If a job wants you, they will pay that $3000. I think your school sounds a bit deceptive, honestly - and I wonder if there were other programs available that you weren't informed about.
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From: gto_72
2009-07-05 05:14 am (UTC)

Re: Thanks!!!

Deceptive indeed...
I already applied to another hospital, but I live in a small city in oklahoma with only 4 hospitals, so my choices are very limited and relocation is an issue at least for now.

About other programs there are only two in the area. Ours and one located about 200 miles away from where I live. I'm married with kids, so I chose the closest one.
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[User Picture]From: tzigana
2009-07-05 01:16 pm (UTC)

I did a 3+1 program at a university, with 3 years at the school, followed by a 1 year hospital internship, leading to a Clinical Laboratory Science degree from my home university.

(Actually, the hospital I chose did a 9 month program, with a required extra course in urinalysis and basic blood banking the summer before.)

What we usually had was 4 days on bench and then 1 day of lecture per week, with exams throughout the week on the lecture material, plus exams on the bench work. So you could be in your chemistry rotation 4 days a week, with small exams for that, plus studying anemias on fridays, with exams for that tuesday morning and thursday morning. And lecture days could be anything from 8 hours on one subject to 8 one hour subjects, to a half a day of studying and then a tour of the crime lab.

But I'm sure a lot of that varies by hospital. ( I only researched the one program because of living situations as well. )

I do know we also have/had a school in the area that did more in depth lectures first, and then sent you out for 6-8 months of just clinicals, without the lecture.
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[User Picture]From: samcurlz
2009-07-07 11:20 pm (UTC)
I graduated my med tech program last year and I must say, the education is a lot harder than the work. I questioned my decision for this field as well, but now that I'm working I think I made the right choice.

Depending on the job you get, you will definitely get more experience in the places you need it. I work at an 800 bed hospital that does a few thousand outpatient requisitions a day so I've more or less specialized in hematology and chemistry. We have whole different departments for immunology, blood bank and micro. So I've never officially issued blood. But if you get a job at a smaller hospital with no outpatient work coming in, you may have to learn every department and of course they will train you. The first place I worked at after my boards didn't train me well because I didn't let them know what I needed to know. I basically just sat and watched; I was still in student mode. So definitely communicate what you want to learn and what you feel you know already.

I think my lab is a pretty friendly environment. I work midnights but I was trained on days. In general, in my lab, the off-shifters are more friendly than the dayshifters, but that may be associated with age. There are more young people working our offshift and our dayshift has a bad case of not being morning people. Plus there are less bosses to spy on you...

I studied my little ARSE off for the boards. After I took it I found I was way over prepared for the test. I used three different review books, all of which were helpful. I'm sure any one that you pick up will be of good use. Especially if you pick up one that was written by the organization of the test you're taking. I took it through ASCP, so I got an ASCP book.

Anyway, good luck! don't pull out too much hair. On almost every notebook I kept for my clinicals I wrote "This too shall pass". Anything to get you through the day!
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-09-16 05:53 am (UTC)
Unfortunately it sounds like you did not choose a very good CLS training program. I just finished the program at a very large university medical center, and for the most part I had a positive experience. The teaching coordinators, bench techs, lecturers, etc. were all very supportive. Yes, sometimes techs are busy, because they do have their own work to do in addition to teaching you, so be understanding of that. We were paid an educational stipend and were not considered employees. However, we have affiliates who hire and pay their students as lab assistants. That might be the difference in whether you are treated as a student or as a lab assistant.
It is true that some bench work does not correlate well with theory--that is the nature of some of the bench work. It is up to you to connect what you learn in lecture with what is going on in the analyzer, etc.

As for lab professionals being "unfriendly people"...why would you believe a sweeping generalization such as that? Don't judge an entire workforce based on what somebody told you once. Do you believe everything other people tell you or do you get your own experience and form your own opinions? For example, how would you like it if someone judged you based on your poor English skills?

Reality check: you ARE already in the "real world." I am assuming you were training on the bench with techs who were doing their jobs--that is what the job will be like for you (at least at that hospital, if you choose to work there after your training). If that hospital has such a negative and unhappy environment, I would work someplace else after your training.
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From: gto_72
2009-09-16 09:51 pm (UTC)

@ anonymous

Dear anonymous:
Unfortunately I did choose a bad program, however I did my best and complete it and also passed my board. Now as a MT (ASCP) I still see the program as a deficient one and the employees (at that specific hospital)as unfriendly. I was not generalizing when I made my comments. I stated my experience and then asked the visitors of this forum for their opinions. Sorry if I hit a nerve with my comments, that was not the intention.
Thank you, but I don't need your reality check. I know where I stand and I know what I want.
One more thing, I don't worry too much about generalizations about my poor english skills, afterall English is my third language.
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