BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Since the pandemic began, millions of COVID-19 tests have been administered across the Buckeye State.
From drive-thru's to pharmacies, Ohioans stepped up — including a unique group of students from Bowling Green State University.
Tyler McCullough, Paul Miller and Sarah Vanderhorst are three of many students who helped with the testing clinic set up on Bowling Green’s campus.
"It was honestly really empowering," Miller said.
“Some of us were running almost 40-50 tests during the day and had up to six of us," McCullough said.
"I definitely feel like that was a teaching moment that I'm not only teaching not only students but faculty and i’d like to think that just helps to teach the community of bowling green in general," Vanderhorst said.
All three students are Medical Laboratory Science majors (MLS).
"For me joining the testing initiative really made me feel like i was making a difference," Miller said.
Jessica Bankey is the program’s director. She and trained students administered almost 27,000 tests during the 2020-2021 school year.
“We kind of took it and made it our baby and it’s really our project here on campus," she said. “I’m just really proud of this group of students.”
Bankey said the clinic gave students - especially younger ones - an opportunity to get hands-on training.
“It was a really great experience for our students to get that real world kind of experience before they actually go into the clinical setting,” said Bankey.
The students couldn’t agree more.
"I do feel like I jump-started my internship a little early, which is awesome," said Miller.
Some students, like Vanderhorst, are preparing for their last year of schooling. They are confident the experience will help them land their first job in the medical laboratory field.
"So you're dealing with a wide range of student body, you're dealing with faculty as well, so I think that really puts me ahead of the game," Vanderhorst said.
This is especially important because the field of MLS is facing major staff shortages.
"It's not as visible as what the nursing shortage is or even a physician shortage, but we're having the same kind of issues as what all these other health care professions are having," said Bankey. "I get two to three emails a day, especially around graduation time, asking if I have any seniors who've not committed to a job yet."
Bankey says the accredited MLS program is now in a great position to grow and expand.
"We are kind of in the process, the preliminary process of looking into creating an MLT to MLS completion program. So, students that go through community colleges and graduate with an MLT, which is a medical laboratory technician degree, they can potentially come back to our program and complete that for a four year degree. We are also looking at expanding our clinical sites in the area and having more students go into the externships," she said. "We're trying to think outside the box and getting these students the necessary education that requires for them to pass their boards.”