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Class learns about lab technologists

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Two of Riverside Health Care's lab technologists spoke to a Grade 8 class at St. Francis School on Monday to provide insight into their roles.

Serena Stromberg and Shakira Gerald also touched on the five disciplines that make up the lab, which include chemistry, hematology, transfusion science, histology, and microbiology.

They talked about what is done with a patient's blood after a nurse takes a sample, as well as provided an understanding of how they help doctors determine a diagnosis.

“I like to think that we opened their eyes to the fact that hospitals, and any health-care facility, is more than just the doctors and nurses,” Gerald remarked.

When looking at pursuing an education in a science-related role, Gerald thought her only options were to go into research or nursing, or to become a doctor.

“So we hopefully opened up their eyes to that," she said. "There's so much more to what makes a hospital run.”

The students, meanwhile, seemed very keen about the portion of the presentation that focused on blood transfusions.

The pair spoke about the importance of identifying a person's blood type and ensuring the blood is labelled correctly because of the potentially fatal risks associated with giving someone the wrong blood type.

Gerald and Stromberg both graduated from the medical laboratory technology program at Cambrian College, and also highlighted that there are many different pathways for students leaving high school.

“Hopefully, we make them realize that you don't have to go to university necessarily,” Stromberg explained.

“There's nothing wrong with university but there's so many other options,” she noted.

“Hopefully, this new generation has a more broader view of post-secondary [education].”

Something else they wanted the students to understand was that what they learn now in school is applicable to the real world.

“The stuff they're learning in school is stuff you will actually use on some level,” Stromberg said.

“As a student, you always think I'm never going to use this, why are we learning it?” she conceded.

“But you will if you go into a career like this.”

The presentation was made possible through the Catholic school board's experiential learning lead Jean Bujold, who was asked by the Grade 8 teacher at St. Francis if there was a way of making her lessons on cell systems and structures a little bit more interesting.

“I thought that I would give the hospital, Riverside Health Care Facilities, a call and . . . asked if anyone at the medical lab would be interested in making a presentation,” Bujold explained.

“Toni Benning, the [lab] manager, made it possible through her support and she was super keen to actually promote medical laboratory technology as a profession,” she added.

Stromberg and Gerald also were very excited about being able to put their occupation into the spotlight.

“I'm really glad that you guys reached out to us, as well, because like I said, no one ever really knows that we exist,” Gerald remarked.

“I think we had no idea this job existed before we went away to school.”

Looking ahead, Stromberg and Gerald will be promoting their profession around town from April 21-27 as part of National Medical Laboratory Week.

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