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Expanded need plus new referral effort doubles enrollment in med tech program

4/28/2002
April 29, 2002

Austin Peay's Medical Technology Program is seeing a boost in enrollment, thanks to a new partnership with local hospitals.

"There is a dire shortage in lab staffing across the state because potential employees lack certification to work in Tennessee," said Dr. Keith Belcher, chair of the department of biology at APSU. "We're tapping local hospitals, who are, in turn, calling us with names of individuals who applied for work but weren't eligible because they didn't meet certification requirements.

"Basically, they're telling them to go through the Austin Peay Med Tech Program and come back to the hospital when they are finished."

One of the few left in Middle Tennessee, the Med Tech Program at APSU prepares future clinical scientists for work in hospital labs through classroom training in chemistry, physiology, microbiology and hematology during the first three years of study.

The last year, called the "professional year," is dedicated to advanced clinical analysis and practical training with area hospitals.

"In the past, our students were forced to plow through enormous amounts of information, and they had difficulty sorting the truly essential components. We now have streamlined our curriculum to focus on the skills desperately needed in today's labs," said Belcher.

"This includes blood grouping and typing, screening for infectious diseases, clinical analysis of fluids, identifying pathogenic organisms and testing for susceptibility to infectious diseases."

In addition to a bachelor of science degree, medical technology students earn a certificate recognizing completion of the professional year and qualifying them to take state licensure exams.

The expanding need for licensed technologists has doubled enrollment in the program, according to Belcher. "We will graduate seven students in May and have about 15 starting the new class this summer."

Individuals who already have a bachelor's degree in biology also are enrolling in the program because they too are not appropriately licensed to work in the state.

"Finding these students, which include graduates of our own biology program, opens up a fresh recruitment pool for us," said Belcher, who was joined by Dr. Mary Mayo, assistant professor of biology and director of the Med Tech Program, and Dr. Robert Robison, biology professor, in the new recruitment effort.

"While the new strategy is certainly worthwhile, we will continue to approach students in high schools. We want to build the pyramid from the base by introducing students to the program and career possibilities in medical technology from the beginning. We want to take them through their studies and academic careers at Austin Peay.

"And in addition to 'home growing' students, we want to provide the professional year to those who already have their bachelor's degrees and want more advanced training."

For more information, telephone 7781 or visit www.apsu.edu/medtech.