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Girard Medical Center Opens Laboratory to High School Students

Sean Steffen, The Morning Sun

Girard Medical Center opened its laboratory to high school students for the first time Friday afternoon.

The center brought in about 150 students from Girard USD 248, Northeast USD 246, Frontenac USD 249 and Southeast USD 247 to show them a different side of the medical field and promote interest in medical technology careers. Medical technicians perform blood work, chemical analyses and EKG readings, among a variety of other tasks.

“There’s beginning to be quite a shortage of medical technologists, and a lot of them are getting ready to retire,” said laboratory director Rebecca Conn-Smith. “A lot of programs are closing down or only turning out one or two graduates a year.”

The students toured three areas of the lab. They learned how to make Gram stains, which is a method, designed by Hans Christian Gram, of color-differentiating species of bacteria based on the chemical properties of their cell walls. They also learned how to take blood samples to make slides, as well as how technicians make blood smears and analyze blood samples.

“Any time we can help make them aware of other areas in the medical field, it’s a good thing,” said Sara Sutton, Southeast High School’s biology teacher, who brought several groups of students through the lab throughout the day. “I don’t think many kids get to see behind the scenes. We’re trying to make them aware that there are more than just doctors and nurses involved.”

The hospital also gave each of the visiting students an information packet that detailed the medical technology profession and programs at local universities. Conn-Smith said medical technologists can expect to earn a median starting salary of about $30,000, and that the profession is good for people who may be introverted.

“It’s great for people who like to be in health care, but not all of the one-on-one interaction that doctors and nurses have,” Conn-Smith said. “It’s also a great career if you like to solve puzzles and mysteries and are comfortable with technology.

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Girard Medical Center Opens Laboratory to High School Students

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