A single millilitre of human blood can contain 5 billion cells that can reveal signs of health or illness. “Quickly and accurately identifying these cells requires training, experience, and keen attention to detail,” says Sheri Johnson Purdon, a Medical Laboratory Technology professor at Cambrian College. Thanks to a Simulation and Clinical Placement grant from the Canadian Society of Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS), Johnson Purdon and her student assistant, Aislinn Michie, are digitizing up to 100 slides and uploading them so that students can study, identify, and be tested on their skills online, without using a microscope.
Using a digital camera paid for by the CSMLS grant, Michie is photographing each physical slide in the college’s inventory to create a digital slide bank. “The inventory of digital slides we’re creating will help students gain experience with cell identification and counting, and it will help employers test students’ competencies before and after clinical placements,” Johnson Purdon explains. “We’ll also identify the attributes and characteristics found in each digital image so it’s easier to quickly and accurately assess the students’ work.”
Millions of diagnostic tests are conducted in Ontario every year for medical diagnoses, treatment, research, and even legal or forensic purposes. According to the CSMLS, innovative teaching and assessment tools like the digital slide bank Johnson Purdon’s creating will be required to help train enough medical laboratory technologists to fill a growing number of jobs in the field.
The Society is anticipating a nation-wide shortage of licensed medical laboratory technologists because 50 percent will be of retirement age in the next ten years. Canada’s population is also aging and will experience complex health conditions, leading to more testing and research.
Cambrian College offers the only three-year Medical Laboratory Technology advanced diploma program in Ontario that is certified by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Through the program, students prepare for careers as medical laboratory technologists and gain knowledge and hands-on experience with clinical hematology, chemistry, microbiology, and histotechnology, as well as transfusion science medicine. In 2017, graduates of the program earned a 100 percent success rate on their professional exams, which is the final step that allows them to be licensed to practice by the CSMLS. In 2017, the program earned a 6-year accreditation from the CMA, which is the highest level offered by the accrediting body.
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