Foundation hears from former WVCO student

Bryan Berntsen

OMAK — The Wenatchee Valley College at Omak Foundation recently heard a presentation by Omak resident Bryan Berntsen about his experiences on campus.

Berntsen, 55, works as a ASCP board-certified medical laboratory technician at Mid-Valley Hospital, Omak.

WVC Omak provided the vehicle for my success,” he said.

In 2005 Berntsen was stocking shelves and supervising the night crew at a local market. When Walmart came to town, he was laid off.

After attending a WorkSource careers class, he enrolled at WVCO, taking prerequisites for the in-demand field of medical laboratory technology.

Vicki Turner, Kit Arbuckle, Randy Middleton, Vicki Lewis, Jeff Dykes, Bob Gillespie and others at the Omak campus each played a role in his success, he said. Each was supportive and helped him gain new skills in computers, communications, medical and laboratory work, as well as chemistry and other required knowledge and skills.

By September 2007, Berntsen had graduated and became a board-certified medical laboratory technician. He was hired by Mid-Valley Hospital and is one of nine full-time technicians, plus their supervisor, doing urinalysis, blood coagulation factor tests, blood draws, liver and kidney tests, and more.

“I am proof that you can teach an old dog new skills,” he said. “I love my job. I am truly thankful to WVC Omak for this.

“I know I make a difference. I love what I do. Some days are traumatic, especially when you are working with someone you know or their family. The power of modern medicine is incredible to witness first hand. I have WVC Omak to thank for giving me the opportunity to do so every day. I live five minutes from work and get paid quite well.”

He said students should use work-study, grants and scholarships when possible.

“Student loans require long-term payback,” he said. “WVC Omak and its fine staff gave me a chance to find out what I was capable of.”

Bernstein said there is a shortage of medical laboratory technicians nationwide. About 12,000 full-time jobs are available in the United States each year, but only 5,000 new technicians enter the field each year.

“In bigger hospitals you can become more specialized. I like it being different each day,” he said. “Mid-Valley Hospital cannot find full-time replacement lab techs and now relies on traveling medical lab techs. Most traveling MLTs say this is one of the hardest places they have ever worked. Many work in one section of a lab in larger hospitals. I’m a generalist, my work changes hourly, day to day.”

At Mid-Valley, he deals with inpatients, outpatients, emergency room patients, family members, doctors, nurses, admissions people, billing and more, so communication skills are important, he said.

“Lab techs are required to have exceptional computer skills,” he said. “We troubleshoot analyzer, reagent and patient sample issues. Diagnostic, technical, therapeutic and direct patient care are provided daily.”

The medical laboratory technician program is offered at WVC campuses in Omak and Wenatchee, and online.

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