Introducing clinical laboratory science: CLS students help shape the future

Barbara G Sawyer, Joel Hubbard, Lori Rice-Spearman
Clinical Laboratory Science: Journal of the American Society for Medical Technology 2006, 19 (4): 206-13

OBJECTIVES: The profession of clinical laboratory science (CLS) is in dire need of increased exposure to young people. By introducing the clinical laboratory sciences to students at a critical point in their science education and by making it relevant to their lives, more choices are made available to them when considering future career options. With this in mind, the CLS faculty at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) redesigned a recruitment program and developed it into one making use of CLS student knowledge, enthusiasm, and professionalism. CLS students were given the assignment of designing an entire curriculum for a ten day presentation of clinical laboratory science topics to middle and secondary school students. Following the presentations, participants in the program were asked to provide feedback regarding CLS student performance and overall opinion of their interest in clinical laboratory science. The objectives of this study were twofold: 1) to determine if educational methodologies could be appropriately applied by CLS students to present CLS disciplines to middle and high school students; and 2) to determine if the student presentation was successful in initiating interest in the CLS profession based on outcome measures.

DESIGN: As a component of the CLS laboratory management course, CLS students were instructed in education methodologies including objective writing, teaching-unit preparation, and evaluation tool design. In the following semester, these students were divided into groups and assigned a specific CLS discipline that would then be presented to middle and secondary school students in a two week, 30 hour educational program. This program was offered by the TTUHSC CLS program in cooperation with the Institute for the Development and Enrichment of Advanced Learners (IDEAL) at Texas Tech University. The curriculum prepared by the CLS students (with faculty supervision) provided the framework for the present study.

SETTING: Didactic instruction of the CLS students regarding objective writing, curriculum design, and preparation of evaluations was included as a component of a CLS laboratory management course. The educational program presented by IDEAL in conjunction with the TTUHSC CLS program within the School of Allied Health Sciences occurred in the CLS student laboratories located in Lubbock, Texas.

PARTICIPANTS: TTUHSC senior CLS students in a 2 + 2 baccalaureate level CLS program acted as instructors in the educational program which was presented to middle and secondary school students from around the region. CLS program faculty served as supervisors of this program.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Questionnaires with Likert-scaled responses were used to evaluate outcomes. These questionnaires regarded 1) faculty assessment of CLS student performance relative to instruction in education methods; 2) participant feedback on the effectiveness and competence of the CLS student instructors and overall appeal of the presented subject material; and 3) peer evaluations of attitude, contribution, and effort of the group members.

RESULTS: CLS faculty strongly agreed that the CLS students demonstrated a high level of competence when writing objectives, planning age-appropriate curriculum and activities, and demonstrating a positive image of the profession. Regarding satisfaction of the IDEAL student participant, questionnaire responses demonstrated a high rate (84% or greater for middle school participants and 85% for high school students). The program design has been so successful that it has been implemented for several other programs offered by TTU and IDEAL.

CONCLUSION: The education methods used in presenting the IDEAL program mirror those found in clinical and academic settings and is an effective technique to introduce CLS students to the varied aspects of educational methodology. The presentation by the CLS students also demonstrated that introduction of clinical laboratory science disciplines early in the education of middle and secondary school students leads to an interest in the CLS profession and to the desire to learn more about it.

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