Team brings biosafety to Kirkwood students

Team brings biosafety to Kirkwood students
MLT students Muaz Tilouni (left) and Nawal Hindyeh
April 23, 2019 -- Two SHL microbiologists teamed to develop and teach a course that aims to help students work safely in a clinical laboratory and gives them a head start when they enter the workforce.

Stephany Cochran and Jennifer Elwood created “Introduction to Biosafety” for undergraduate students in the Kirkwood Community College Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) program. The class was launched last fall as part of the first accredited Kirkwood MLT program, and is expected to be offered each fall semester.

“The course was created to give MLT students a good background in biosafety right at the beginning of their training to really set the foundation of biosafety,” Elwood said. “This will help them with the rest of their training and really prepare them for the workforce.”

Medical laboratory technicians perform testing in clinical laboratories to assist health care providers in making diagnoses and determining a course of care for patients. Because MLTs work with potentially infectious organisms, it is important that they use biosafety practices to protect themselves as well as the integrity of specimens.

“The practice of safety in the clinical laboratory setting should be at the forefront of the students’ minds, not only in the classroom setting but also as they enter into their future careers,” said Kizer Friedley, Kirkwood MLT Program Director. “We just want to make sure they are well prepared.”

An Association for Biosafety and Biosecurity International course served as a guide for Cochran and Elwood who modified it to better align with the Kirkwood program and the unique demands of a clinical laboratory setting.

“Laboratory safety education plays a vital role in the student’s ability to identify potential hazards (risk assessment), prevent accidents, break the chain of infection, and to determine proper responses when injuries or exposures occur,” said Friedley.

“In presenting this information to the Kirkwood MLT students, we are hoping that, as a stand-alone biosafety course, the students will be able to understand and focus on the importance of laboratory safety prior to entering the core courses in the program where they will be directly working in a laboratory classroom setting.”

This is the first known collaboration of its kind between a state public health laboratory and a community college-based MLT program. Cochran and Elwood hope that their course and collaboration with Kirkwood will be a model for other public health laboratories and academic institutions, and ultimately improve biosafety practices in laboratories across the nation.