Volume 36 Number 5 | October 2022

Kerry Toups, MT(ASCP), ASCLS Marketing and Communications Committee Member

Kerry ToupsFor the first time in over 20 years, I celebrated Medical Laboratory Professionals Week outside of a clinical laboratory. My former employer set the bar high for celebrating Lab Week with employee cook-offs, games, prizes, and gifts. I wanted to bring this level of excitement and fun to Fletcher Technical Community College, where I recently began teaching in the medical laboratory technician (MLT) and phlebotomy programs.

In the MLT classes, instructors emphasize professionalism and the importance of clear effective communication. One of our college librarians gave the students a presentation on professional behavior in the healthcare setting. She utilized the Code of Ethics from the ASCLS website in her presentation and incorporated ways to research diverse topics using our college’s databases.

Students were challenged to select a topic relevant to the laboratory, research this topic, and present it to attendees at our Lab Fair. Attendees included faculty, staff, and students at Fletcher, as well as clinical preceptors, advisory council members, prospective students, and community members.

Secret shoppers (undercover observers) were incorporated into the fair to increase attendance and provide unbiased information regarding our students’ abilities to demonstrate professionalism. Using the Joint Commission’s patient safety goals for the laboratory regarding communication, I wanted to assess that my students clearly communicated laboratory information to others.

Secret shoppers were current nursing instructors, clinical preceptors, Fletcher staff, and faculty members. Students were scored based upon their verbal and non-verbal communication, including body language, posture, eye contact, and ability to be heard and understood. Students were also familiar with the grading rubric to be used by the secret shoppers.

Research has consistently shown that students learn and retain information better when high impact practices are utilized. In this exercise, we used a variety of high impact practices:

  • Active learning: Students selected, researched, and sometimes revised their topics while delving deeper into course material
  • Service learning: Students made handouts, brochures, and quizzes to be used during the fair to promote learning among participants
  • Collaborative projects: Students communicated their ideas with each other and instructors through discussion posts and classroom discussions
  • Teaching others: Students were able to educate others at the fair about various functions of the laboratory
  • Incorporating fun into lessons: Agar Art was created and photographed prior to the Lab Fair; participants were able to vote on the students’ designs for a “People’s Choice Award”

In addition to the student presentations, Lab Fair 2022 included a petri dish lid toss game, Ebola quiz, Naegleria fowleri quiz, agar art photographs display, and door prizes. Overwhelmingly, the feedback was positive and increased understanding of the MLT program and profession.

Fletcher Biology Professor Erica Burns allowed her students to attend the Lab Fair during class time and collected feedback regarding their participation:

  • “I loved getting to see how creative everyone was! Their presentations all looked good, and everyone was extremely knowledgeable in their field. It was so cool to get to see Staph aureus on the agar plates and under the microscope!”
  • “It provided information about different topics. There was a table that provided information about healthcare-associated infections; I thought it was interesting because patients often are not well informed or are scared to question their healthcare providers. The table provided information about ways to be a safe patient.”
  • “The presenters from the fair were well informed and articulate. I learned a lot about bacteria and how they can be identified. I was surprised at how common Bacillus cereus is and especially the devastating effects it can have. It has made me more conscious of my food and making sure it is safe to eat. The two agar presentations were really interesting.”

The MLT students were surprised at the turnout of over 50 people at the event. One student explained afterwards that she had secretly hoped no one would attend the event. She was extremely nervous about presenting her topic and being asked questions. After her first few visitors, she became comfortable with speaking about her topic.

The MLT students all reported increased knowledge of their topic and feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment after participating in the Lab Fair. Everyone in attendance agreed that this event enriched our college, advanced laboratory knowledge for all participants, and should be continued each year. Plans are underway for next year. Anyone interested in more details on planning their own event can contact me directly.

Kerry Toups is currently a graduate student in MS MLS at University of North Dakota and is an instructor at Fletcher Technical Community College in Schriever, Louisiana.

Fletcher Technical Comunity College Lab Fair Table

At the Fletcher Technical Community College Lab Fair, MLT students presented research topics relevant to the laboratory.

Fletcher Technical Community College Lab Fair Agar Art

Agar Art was displayed, and Lab Fair participants could vote for a “People’s Choice Award.”