West Windsor, N.J. – When you receive a phone call from the International Space Station, you tend to pay close attention.
This past fall, six Medical Laboratory Technology (MLT) students at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) provided technical support as interns for Abbott's Point of Care business during the company’s software update to its widely used i-STAT device. They fielded phone calls from healthcare professionals across the country – and even from an astronaut on the Space Station.
According to MCCC faculty member Lisa Shave, coordinator of the MLT program, the i-STAT instrument is widely used in physicians’ offices, hospital emergency rooms, and other healthcare settings as a fast, accurate and cost-effective blood analyzer. With two updates annually, Abbott worked with Shave last year to bring in additional technical support to help with increased call volume during the software release.
Based in Chicago, Abbott produces testing and diagnostics equipment and technology, and manufactures medical devices and generic pharmaceuticals, serving people in more than 150 countries. The goal of its Princeton-based Point of Care business is to design, develop, manufacture and provide technical support to medical professionals who are using the i-STAT System.
“This was a great opportunity for our MLT students to learn about healthcare from the manufacturer’s side,” Shave said, noting that students had to rely on their critical thinking and communications skills. “People skills are important in every job, whether that’s dealing with patients or co-workers.”
Shave adds that students an MLT degree is more versatile than some may realize. "There are a number of jobs where a laboratory background is valuable,” she said.
Student Carolyn Vazquez, of Hamilton, said the internship was a welcome addition to her college coursework. “We were helping people with an important task. I might be one of the people on the other end of the line someday.”
As part of the internship program, the Mercer students received 40 hours of training on updating the devices. When the update went live in November, they were among those who served as the first line of inquiry in helping customers, including initial calls and follow-up issues.
Two students have been asked to stay on this spring. One is Kaleanne Esguerra, who currently works 32 hours per week. “Working at Abbott has given me a different insight into the laboratory testing field as a whole,” she said. “Most of the customers I deal with on a regular basis are lab techs, lab managers, and point of care coordinators, so I've gotten a glimpse of what they do and how seemingly differing industries all intersect.”
On any given day, Esguerra may be documenting responses to customer surveys, assisting customers with product questions, and checking to make sure that customers’ facilities have a secure network when using the wireless analyzers.
Esguerra, who already has her B.S. in Biology from Humboldt State University, has mapped out her future plans, including working as a traveling Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS) and earning her master’s degree in either MLS or Public Health.
But, she notes, working at Abbott's Point of Care business has opened up other possibilities. “It's exciting to be part of an international company,” she said.
Esguerra has been more than satisfied with her Mercer experience. “I think MCCC has great science programs and instructors. Professor Shave has been incredibly helpful in cementing my path. It hasn't been the easiest journey, but her dedication and passion for the field is noticeable and inspiring,” Esguerra said.
Carolyn Vazquez, another Abbott intern, said the internship was a welcome addition to her college coursework. “We were helping people with an important task. I might be one of the people on the other end of the line someday.”
Other students who interned this fall were Jessica LaFrennie, Julie Kim, Gladys Iglesias, and Jerry Sowers (alumnus).
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