Shane Warner ’24, an allied health major with a concentration in medical laboratory science (MLS), is spending his senior year of college completing the clinical portion of his 3+1 allied health program at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Warner is the first Immaculata student to enroll in the medical lab science program at Hershey, which was established in 2019.
Immaculata’s Bachelor of Science in Allied Health clinical specialties program, in association with affiliate institutions such as Hershey Medical Center, prepares students for licensure/credentialing in their chosen clinical specialty area. Immaculata alumna, Melissa George ’00, D.O., works in the medical lab science program at Hershey, serves as director of various departments and programs, and is an associate professor of pathology there. Anne Marie McCauley, D.H.Ed., RN, the director of Immaculata’s allied health program, played a crucial role in finalizing the partnership with Hershey, making it a new option for students pursuing MLS.
Allied health majors concentrating in MLS are few, and shortages in the field are a significant concern due to an aging workforce and increasing demand for laboratory services. Professional organizations like the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) are actively working to address this issue.
In discussing the evolving landscape of the MLS field, Warner emphasized the impact of automation on laboratory processes. In fact, the National Institutes of Health stated in 2018 that automation is being introduced into labs to manage increasing workload, reduce errors and enhance laboratory performance with a limited labor pool. However, while automation aims to increase efficiency and accuracy, Warner acknowledged there are challenges, including job losses for some individuals. He noted that areas like microbiology and blood banking still require manual human intervention due to their critical nature.
As a child, he was exposed to hospitals and medical facilities when his father underwent a heart transplant at the University of Pennsylvania. “My heart has always been set on microbiology because it is so interesting,” he admitted. “When you’re a young kid and you get exposed to a microscope, it opens your eyes to this little world, and it blows your mind.” To pay it forward, Warner hopes to follow his sister, Kacie O’Brien Patterson, at UPenn Hospital, where she works as a nursing manager.
In fact, Warner’s sister was one of the deciding factors in his decision to attend Immaculata. Kacie graduated from the University with a nursing degree in 2010. Additionally, Warner was also influenced by Immaculata’s convenient location and affordability.
As Warner pursues his ultimate goal of securing a MLS position, he follows the advice from Immaculata Chemistry Professor James Murray Jr., Ph.D., who suggested he read advanced articles by current leaders in the industry to keep up to date on the sciences and not rely solely on textbooks. Warner uses his spare time to get caught up on his reading.
“Immaculata has given me the foundation to go into this program prepared and to build off of what I’ve learned in my allied health classes,” he stated.
However, what Immaculata provides, in addition to a great foundation in the sciences, are the intangibles that have shaped Warner’s education. “Immaculata is one tight family and with that comes the support you might need, whether it’s financial or academic,” he stated.
The support Immaculata provides reaches beyond the confines of campus. For example, before Warner arrived at the Hershey Medical Center, Melissa George reached out via email to welcome and learn more about him. They then met in person about a week after classes began. Since then, George presented to Warner and his classmates on ethics, and she also gave guest lectures during the hematology and blood banking courses.
Through the clinical portion of his training at Hershey, Warner is focusing on blood banking and anticipates completing his program in the spring. He will then take the ASCP Board of Certification to become a licensed medical lab scientist.
No matter what job he pursues or where he lands, the hard work and dedication that Warner is putting into his education will reap benefits in the future. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for salary positions as clinical laboratory technologists and technicians average over $57,000 annually and projected job growth is 5%, which is faster than the national average for all jobs.