What do you love about your job?
I work in the Hematology department at NorDx, located at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Testing and protocol may seem routine, but every patient is different and you never know what you might find. Every blood smear I examine under the microscope tells a story. It can tell me that this patient is a healthy individual or give me more information about conditions such as anemia or leukemia. Abnormal findings can be very exciting. It’s like a big puzzle. I just love putting all the pieces together. I am a link between a patient and the doctor and my input matters.
Describe a recent on-the-job event or interaction that gave you satisfaction.
A patient came into our emergency room with a fever. While examining the blood smear, I found bacteria in the white blood cells and called my findings to the emergency room. Within minutes the infectious disease team was in the department asking me to review the slide with them. They agreed with my finding. Correlating what was on the smear with the clinical features of the patient allowed the doctors to start treatment immediately.
How did you get interested in this work?
I was a stay at home mom with three young children. My youngest was starting nursery school. It was my time to go back to school. I happened to pick up a brochure from Westbrook College and thumbed through it. I have always been interested in math and science. They offered a Medical Technologist program. I visited the campus and spoke with the program director. It seemed to be something that I knew I would enjoy for a long time.
What kind of training or education did you have to get to do it?
I attended a four-year program at Westbrook College. It was three years of classes and labs. The fourth year was a 12-month internship at Maine Medical Center. It consisted of additional classes with hands-on work in the laboratory environment. It was exciting to be able to correlate theory with test results. There it is again, putting the puzzle together.
What advice would you give to a high school student who is interested in this work?
Focus on Science and Math courses, anatomy and physiology as well. Visit local labs and ask for tours or better yet, job shadow for a day or two in different areas of a lab or research facility. There are research facilities that offer internships for the summer, giving you some hands on experience.
Other thoughts about your job, your workplace or the field you work in?
My job is challenging, balancing my daily work load and requests for bedside bone marrow collection, special testing or cytochemical stains. The lab is located in a 637-bed hospital, giving me the opportunity to see a variety of abnormal specimens. It keeps me busy but it can be very exciting.