HealthWise Report: Lab Professionals Week

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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, VA (NEWSPLEX)-- Medical technologists and histo technologists typically spend all of their time in a lab, usually in a basement of a building or hospital, doing very unique and important jobs.

Med techs run tests that make up about 80% of a patients’ medical chart.

While histo techs prepare patient samples for pathologists to diagnose.

"We play an intricate roll and we're basically the ones to make the slides so that the pathologists can say yes, you have cancer, no, you don't have cancer or your margins are positive or they're negative, so it's the quality of work that we do that they're able to diagnose that," said Lorraine Pantella, a section leader for the first-ever histology program with Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Rockingham County.

Haley Johnson is about to graduate from the program in June.

She spent the last six months shadowing histo techs at Martha Jefferson Hospital and prior to that, Johnson was taking in lectures and labs at RMH, totaling one year of learning her craft.

"It's very artistic and technique-based and you have to be really focused and on-point with what you're doing because it's for a patient, so I think it's really rewarding and exciting to see all the different tissues come in and learn about all the different diseases and processes, so it's been really fun," said Johnson.

Johnson said she was drawn to the career for a number of reasons: She loves science; it pays well and there is plenty of job security, which is because there is currently a national shortage.

Sentara added the histology program to its already well-established medical technologist program to help with the nationwide need.

"Right now we have about a 7.8% vacancy rate in the laboratory field and it is expected to be a 22% growth rate until the year 2022. We actually have 25% of our workforce retiring in the next 10 years, so it is going to be a huge national shortage," said education specialist Abigail Blosser.

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