Topeka Works To Meet Demand For Med Lab Scientists

Topeka (WIBW) - Stormont-Vail's lab and other labs are a vital cog in the wheel of health care.

The medical labs receive all types of specimens and do a variety of testing on them. From blood sugar and cholesterol levels, to tumor markers, tox screens, and more, Stormont-Vail's Director of Clinical Labs Diane Burton estimates the number of tests making their way into the lab has doubled over the past five years.

Burton says it is due to several factors. She says an aging population means more people needing more tests and medical care. Plus, she says an increased population means more people in general needing tests.

Automated machines and bar code tracking has made the process safer and more streamlined, however, the number of medical lab technologists available to read all those tests is shrinking.

Kathy Hupp, director of Clinical Lab Science Student Affairs at Washburn, says a lot of students don't realize such a career exists.

Washburn University, at the request of Stormont, St. Francis and other area hospitals, revived its clinical lab science degree last fall.

Hupp says the program allows a person to use the love of science and desire to be part of the health care field if they don't want to actually be involved with direct patient care.

Labor estimates show that by the year 2018, 20,000 clinical lab scientist professionals will be needed nationwide. The first two students in Washburn's program are completing their hospital work at Stormont and graduating in May, a first step in meeting the demand here at home.

Hupp says students from several area schools express interest in the program, and when they find out they can stay in Topeka and not have to travel, it's a real benefit to them.

Burton already sees the benefits, too. She says she hasn't had two new graduates lined up and available for positions in years.

She says even with the new automated functions, it does not take away the need for the highly-educated person who understands physiological processes and can evaluate the results to make sure they make sense for that person at that time.

The Washburn program is a four-year degree in partnership with University of Nebraska Medical Center. Students apply for the actual program for their senior year.


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