Nationally, hospital laboratories need more than three times as many employees as are being trained in the field, said Barbara Hudson, an MSU instructor in microbiology and director of the program. In Montana, the lack of trained laboratory personnel is significant in both large and small communities.
"Medical laboratory technologists provide all the tests necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment, from microbiology and biochemistry to infectious diseases," said Linda Hyman, Vice Provost of MSU's Division of Health Sciences. "This is a good example of the states' commitment to addressing a significant workforce need in a discipline that is well compensated." Beginning salaries are generally above $40,000, she added.
We are absolutely delighted that this training program can now become a reality," said Tim Ford, head of MSU's Department of Microbiology. "Through the tireless efforts of Barb Hudson, the microbiology department has worked for five years to develop this program--a program we believe will meet a critical health care need for the State of Montana."
"In communities where the lab only has one or two people, when one retires or moves on, the continuation of the hospital can be threatened," Hudson said.
In the training program, for the first three years students will study a variety of basic sciences at MSU, the University of Montana or MSU-Billings. In the summer after their third year, they will start clinical training in a student lab and on the latest lab equipment at MSU before spending two more semesters training at major hospitals. The lab equipment will be housed in MSU's Student Health Services, where it will serve students year-round.
"The students won't just spend time in the seven largest communities with hospitals, but also will do rotations in rural hospitals," Hudson said. "This will give smaller hospital facilities the opportunity to meet and recruit the students."
At the end of the fourth year, students graduate with a bachelor's degree and are ready to take the professional licensing exam.
Dick Brown, president of the Montana Association of Health Care Providers, said a survey of hospitals around the state rated a clinical lab training program as one of the state's two greatest needs. Brown, Hudson and Ford worked with the Commissioner of Higher Education's office and the legislature to have funds for the program approved. Hospitals put up $63,000 in cash and over $300,000 of in-kind contributions. The Montana Legislature approved $822,000 to support the program through workforce development and equipment funding.
Hospitals contributing to the program included Anaconda Community Hospital, Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, MSU Student Health Service in Bozeman, Billings Deaconess Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, St. James Healthcare in Butte, Barrett Hospital and Healthcare in Dillon, Benefis Healthcare in Great Falls, St. Peter's Hospital in Helena, Kalispell Regional Medical Center, St. John's Lutheran Hospital in Libby, Holy Rosary Healthcare in Miles City, St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Clark Fork Valley Hospital in Plains, and North Valley Hospital in Whitefish.
Contact: Barbara Hudson (406) 994-5664 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Tim Ford (406) 994-2901, Linda Hyman (406) 994-4411 or Dick Brown (406) 442-1911