For students looking for a creative, flexible and innovative approach to becoming a laboratory professional, DeVry University's National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences- (NAACLS) accredited Clinical Laboratory Science (CLS) Bachelor's Degree Program offers limited class time, clinical opportunities and a high rate of post-graduate employment.
With its recent success, DeVry became the only higher-education institution in Arizona to currently offer the program.
A New Standard
Naomi McMillan, CLS Program Director at DeVry University, told ADVANCE prior to the accreditation, DeVry students had no real opportunities to study the laboratory field.
"This program is really legendary," McMillan said. "It is our first allied health program among a typical curriculum of engineering, technology, computer science and business courses."
One of the most challenging parts of designing the program, McMillan noted, was that it required an entire science department to be formed.
"We didn't have a science department at all, previously," she said. "Students had to take one science class as a general requirement, so we offered introduction to biology, but it ended there."
McMillan continued, "We had to stand up an entire department, so we took liberties to create the best possible program. We designed a two-tier format in which students are able to take more basic classes in the first tier and increasingly advanced courses in the second."
First tier courses include basic laboratory sections, hematology, chemistry, microbiology, blood bank, immunology, education training, research and management operations, according to McMillan.
Second tier students will study advanced hematology and chemistry, microbiology, blood banks, didactic courses and will learn to differentiate between medical laboratory technology and medical laboratory science.
Students will also fine-tune problem solving skills, synthesize information, evaluate tests, go in-depth in technical practices, troubleshoot and learn method evaluation.
In both tiers, students will also enroll in two clinical rotations spanning 8 weeks each. There, they will practice the skills learned in first and second tier courses, McMillan said.
"DeVry is a private, market-funded school with a unique curriculum that fits the traditional 15-week semester into only 8 weeks," McMillan reported.
She added as DeVry students are in class year-round, they have the option of taking as few as two classes per term while still being considered full-time.
"Because we are not noted for having mainstream students, many find that it is easier to only concentrate on two courses." McMillan said. "There are no course hours cut, they are simply compressed."
McMillan said that just like any other university, DeVry courses require two finals, and two midterms, as well as core clinical hours.
"With our programming, from cradle to grave, the entire process of achieving a clinical laboratory sciences bachelor's degree takes 3 years," McMillan said.
While enrolled in the program, McMillan noted laboratory students will have ample opportunity to get real clinical experience in the Phoenix area.
"We have agreements with 15-20 local hospitals, spanning from smaller reservation hospitals to banner hospitals," she said.
Some of the potential clinical locations include the Phoenix Children's Hospital, Maricopa County Integrated Health System and the Veterans Affairs healthcare system. There are also plans to expand through to the Tucson area.
"In total, we are offering clinical rotations in about 90 percent of the Phoenix area healthcare facilities," McMillan explained.
She noted the program is not tied down with specific clinical requirements, so many hospitals can work with students on their own terms.
"As we go on, more and more hospitals will see that flexibility can work to their advantage, and they can shift students between departments as they see fit," she said. "It will be a great benefit to both the hospital and the students."
Educating Future Professionals
As a deep shortage in the field threatens delayed retirement, more work for fewer professionals and a more stressful work environment for current laboratory professionals, McMillan says DeVry is aware of the need and committed to training the brightest and most qualified CLS workers in the country.
"We have really streamlined our curriculum with the students in mind," McMillan said. "The way classes are broken down, students spend less time in the classroom and have more of an opportunity to build their career experience."
McMillan said that for those who are already certified medical laboratory technicians, the programming is designed so students are not forced to retake material they've already learned.
"We are a career university," she said. "Classes are offered in the evenings so students who are currently working can maintain a strong career base while strengthening their training and exploring other avenues related to their professions."
She added, "It is important to train people for jobs, not just an ambiguous degree, and this career field is certainly linked with a specific job."
To read the full article written by Kelly Wolfgang and featured in ADVANCE for Medical Laboratory Professionals, please click here.