Eyes on Learning

WCA Foundation grant sharpens students’ lab work

“It was like Christmas,” exclaimed Elizabeth Tiberi.  “Yes, it was,” excitedly added fellow medical lab student Kyle Jordan. The fourth year college students enrolled in the WCA Hospital Medical Laboratory Science Program were describing when their new microscopes arrived in their Student Lab.

Focusing on the improved professional quality microscopes, the students had high marks for the equipment that boast LED lights with a pure-white light that will never need to be replaced. Their instructor acknowledges the bulbs will last for 100,000 hours.

“It’s great,” says Kaitlyn Williamson. “The lab techs now love to help us because our scopes are so great,” explains Chris Zando.  “I like them for urinalysis,” Jon Flasher said turning to the more technical side of the gift. “You can see the full detail.”   “It’s like night and day,” chimed in Lacey Stanizewski talking about studying hematology slides. “Everything is so much better.”  Kanda Yeager summed up the condition of the programs old equipment when she said, “Everything that could go wrong with my microscope did go wrong on our last rotation. I was ready to throw it out!”

“We have needed this equipment upgrade for a couple of years,” said Michele Harms, Program Director and one of the 11-month program’s two instructors. “The old ones had been fixed and reconstructed to the point that they wouldn’t hold their focus. We’re so grateful to the Foundation for the microscopes.”

The new addition to the learning lab equipment came as a grant from the $1.5 M Harold and Joyce Childress Fund held at the WCA Foundation. Each year approximately $60,000 in grants are available from the fund’s growth while the corpus of the fund remains untouched to grow more for future grant giving. The same is true of the other funds held by WCA Foundation. The endowments of the Foundation produce approximately $450,000 a year in grants and scholarships for WCA Hospital and its employees while the endowment remains untouched to continue producing greater gains for the future.

The class

“Life is busy for some of them. They aren’t just students. Some have jobs and families as well,” Harms said about the seven students who will graduate from the program in July. “We are told we steal the best year away from their college instructors. We see them turn from college student into professional.

“It’s not just about getting the brightest students,” she says about the Hospital’s preceptorship. “WCA’s lab program has eight seats. We interviewed 28 out of 40 candidates who applied this year and accepted eight. We’ve had some with 4.0s who interview with an air of negativity. It’s about the way they answer your questions,” continued Harms. “You can teach a lot of knowledge, but you can’t teach all the value systems they need for this service profession.”

Thinking about her current class, the veteran instructor said, “This is a quality group. They are great kids.”

Student appreciation of WCA

WCA Hospital Microscopic analysis of stained slides of patient specimens are a key part of diagnoses in microbiology. Kaitlyn Williamson (top) and Kyle Jordan (bottom) are perfecting their skills reading slides using the new microscopes. Students excitedly noted the significant differences between the old microscopes with the clear, bright view of the new microscopes.

“It’s really nice. In college you wonder what it’s going to be like to be a lab tech,” Lacey Staniszewski says, “Here it’s ‘This is what it is like.’ ”

While in the WCA Hospital Medical Laboratory Science Program, students blend their classroom and learning lab experiences with observation in the Hospital’s professional medical laboratory.

“I feel you can learn so much more in a professionally supported program,” adds Elizabeth Tiberi. “Really, it’s so much more than in college.”

“Everyone is so friendly here,” said Kaitlyn Williamson. “The Hospital lab techs find us to show us what we haven’t seen before.”

Jon Flasher explained his experience as surreal. “I never thought I’d be here working.”
“It’s a dream realized,” adds Kyle Jordan of the Jamestown area. “After living here all my life, I never thought I’d have this opportunity.”

Summing up their educational opportunity through WCA Hospital, Chris Zando said, “Techs are real helpful. They all have been students and know what it’s like.”
Lacey Staniszewski agreed. “Our teachers aren’t just Janet McMillin-Jaszcz and Michele. The whole lab’s staff is our teachers.”

Top notch Hospital program

“We are pleased to offer and support the WCA Hospital Laboratory Science Program,” said Betsy Wright, CEO of WCA Hospital. “It’s an accredited, 45-week program offering intensive study and clinical experience in medical laboratory science as the final year of a Bachelor’s degree program that prepares graduates for careers as medical laboratory technologists.

“The job placement rate for graduates of the hospital program is very high with most students are interviewing and accepting employment positions prior to graduating, allowing them to start working soon after completing the program.  The commitment of our talented, highly-skilled instructors, pathologists and medical technologists make this program a great success,” Wright confirmed.

While the instructors are choosy about the fortunate eight who sit in the seats of the WCA Hospital Medical Laboratory Science Program, so too are the students who accept the placement.

“I interviewed here as my first choice,” said Jon Flasher. “When I was accepted, I didn’t look anywhere else.”

“The interviews here were very personal,” explained Lacey Staniszewski. “Other places talked about academics and were very impersonal.”

That value was echoed by Kyle Jordan who said, “With a small class size your learning process is very individualized – with great instructors.”

“I interviewed at four places,” confessed Kaitlyn Williamson, “and this is the only one I liked.”

“WCA keeps our lab top quality;” explains Harms, “not only is the laboratory very dynamic, but the technologists are constantly teaching, keeping their knowledge current and solid. The students are always observing new technologies that WCA Hospital installs.
“Financially it’s tough,” she confesses. “Programs like ours are money-losing ventures for a hospital.  The commitment WCA has made to keep this laboratory program is key.”
The WCA Hospital Medical Laboratory Science Program is affiliated with 15 colleges in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Brigetta Overcash is the Executive Director of WCA Foundation. For more information about the Foundation and how to support WCA Hospital through the Foundation contact her at 716-664-8600 or P.O. Box 840, Jamestown, NY 14702. For information about WCA Hospital’s Medical Laboratory Science Program, go to www.wcahospital.org/mlsprogram.

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