Behind the Scenes

Graduates of FVCC’s Med Lab Tech Program Play Vital Role in Diagnosis of Disease and Illness

On August 2, 2019, four Flathead Valley Community College students made history when they became the first graduates of the Medical Lab Technology (MLT) A.A.S. degree program, a collaboration between FVCC and Kalispell Regional Healthcare to train people for this rapidly growing health care field. The students completed an intensive two-year program, including two semesters of pre-requisite courses, which prepared them to take the national certification exam administered by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists.

Once certified, some of the students will go to work in a local hospital or clinical lab, preparing and analyzing bio samples, operating highly advanced equipment, and communicating test results with physicians and other health care providers. Other students may transfer to a four-year institution to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Medical Laboratory Science.

Cortny Lakes is a member of the inaugural graduating class and has accepted a medical lab tech position with North Valley Hospital in Whitefish. Prior to enrolling in the MLT program at FVCC, Cortny worked as a phlebotomist.

“Some of my coworkers encouraged me to go back to school and become a tech. I was ultimately drawn to the level of competency that is required and how doctors rely heavily on accurate results,” Cortny said. “My favorite part of the program has been clinical rotations. I am a hands-on person and love that we have gotten to see various clinical labs in action.”

Jasmine Harris is another graduate of the program. Influenced by her father, aunt and grandmother, all of whom were nurses, Jasmine said she was attracted to a career in health care. “I liked the science aspect of the medical field, but direct patient care didn’t appeal to me,” she said. “When I heard about the med lab tech program, it seemed like a perfect compromise.”

Like Cortny, Jasmine’s favorite part of the MLT program was the clinical rotation. “They are very hands-on and give you the opportunity to do what is essentially on-the-job training with laboratory personnel,” Jasmine said. “You get a good feel for what the job is going to be like on a day-to-day basis. I also found it invaluable for cementing the knowledge learned in class.”

Both Jasmine and Cortny plan to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree in the field, which would qualify them to work as medical lab scientists. In the meantime, there is no shortage of employment opportunities for them with their current qualifications.

Medical Lab Scientist Denise Pacovsky, who serves as FVCC’s MLT program director, said she receives numerous emails every week from Montana hospitals and clinics in need of trained medical lab techs. This reflects the data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics, which predicts that the employment rate for medical lab techs in Montana will increase 18.5 percent from 2014-2024.

For those wondering if the MLT program might be a good fit for them, the new grads offered some advice:

Cortny:  “If you enjoy science, have great attention to detail, and are looking for job security that offers advancements, you should consider this program.”

Jasmine: “This program is great if you don’t have the option or desire to move out of the Flathead Valley. It gives you the opportunity to learn the skills needed for a stable career path in medical science.”

Students who are in the process of completing the second semester of prerequisite courses may apply for admission into FVCC’s MLT program. Admission to the program is based upon the following:

  • High school diploma or equivalency
  • Evidence of academic achievement in the prerequisite courses taken prior to application
  • Completion of all prerequisite courses by the end of the spring semester preceding entry into the program the following fall semester
  • An interview

Want to learn more? Visit www.fvcc.edu/medical-lab-technology or contact FVCC Academic Advisor Karrie Bolivar at 406.756.3859 or kbolivar@fvcc.edu.