I’ve officially finished my first week as an MLT student! It feels so good to be back in school and doing something so interesting. Returning to student life is definitely a big adjustment, but it’s so fulfilling to finally feel challenged again. It’s definitely worth any struggle.
I realize that I haven’t said much about the program I’m enrolled in. That’s because initially, it seemed way too good to be true and I didn’t want to jinx anything. Here’s a little summary of what I’ll be doing for the next 18 months or so.
The program I’m enrolled in is called Medical Laboratory Technician Training (MLTT). It includes 3 clinical laboratory courses, phlebotomy training, and 4 five-week practicum courses. Since I already have a Bachelor’s degree, upon completion of these courses, I’ll be eligible to take the board exam and become a licensed Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT).
The laboratory courses are Clinical Chemistry & Urinalysis and Hematology & Immunology (which I’m taking this semester), and Medical Microbiology (which I’ll take next semester). These are your basic lecture + lab classes, much like the upper-level biology courses that I took in college. The professor lectures for 1-2 hours, and then there’s a short break, followed by 3-4 hours of lab work.
I’ll be taking a phlebotomy course sometime this summer. I don’t know the details, but it basically involves a couple of weeks of class, a week or so of practicum, a certain number of successful venipunctures and finger sticks, and a certification exam. I’m a little nervous about the whole phlebotomy thing, but don’t worry, because we’ll be practicing venipuncture a lot this semester. On each other.
Practicum courses take place in actual clinical laboratories. Again, I don’t know the details at this point, but from what I can tell, they involve spending time in different areas and learning the ropes of working in a clinical laboratory.
Week 1 Summary
As with the first week in most science courses, the first week was all about basics. Hematology & Immunology takes place on Monday and Wednesday, Clinical Chemistry & Urinalysis on Tuesday and Thursday, but there is some overlap, at least for now.
Monday: Book distribution and instructor introductions, a basic hematology lecture including components of blood, function and anatomy of red blood cells, types of white blood cells, red blood cell indices, etc. Lab consisted of a microscopy review, using a counting chamber, looking at some blood slides, and then an introduction to venipuncture equipment (totally new to me). We practiced finding veins in the arms of our lab partners, and then practiced assembling needles and collection tubes and puncturing bananas.
Tuesday: Overview of the field of clinical laboratory science and career paths, legal definitions related to clinical laboratories, and lab safety. Review of the metric system, lab math, lab equipment, using micropipettes, etc.
Wednesday: Lecture on cellular morphology and function, red blood cell metabolism, hemoglobin metabolism, and iron metabolism. In lab, we learned how to make blood smears. I found it to be much harder than it looks. We kept practicing until we each had two perfect slides (it took a while). Then, we watched a video about basic venipuncture, and another video about finger sticks and heel sticks (for newborns). Finally, we went over what different types of blood cells look like under a microscope.
Thursday: A quick venipuncture lecture. We learned a lot about venipuncture this week, and I’ll be surprised if we don’t start practicing on each other on Monday. Then, we were off to tour the laboratories at Kaiser hospital. It was really fun and awesome. We met a lot of people, and I learned about some careers that I didn’t know existed (and are very appealing). The bet part? Histology. We even got to watch the pathology assistants cut apart real organs!
I had a great first week, but I’m so glad it’s the weekend. Homework time!
Any exciting plans this weekend?