College of Nursing and Health Sciences expands to include Medical Laboratory Science Department

Name change reflects alignment of majors with a clinical focus

Amanda Lydick '18 views a specimen during a Medical Laboratory Science class.
Students view specimens during a Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) class. Students begin working with specimens during their first semester as they learn to analyze and provide valuable information to a patient's health care team.

The Board of Trustees of the University of Massachusetts has approved the transfer of the Department of Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) from the College of Arts & Sciences to the newly renamed College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

The transfer aligns the university’s only two professional health science degree majors in the same college. The realignment also positions UMass Dartmouth to educate students who can contribute to the need for a team-based health care workforce in the community, the region, and beyond.

The expanded and renamed College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CNHS) will be comprised of three departments: the Department of Adult Nursing, the Department of Community Nursing, and the Department of Medical Laboratory Science. Each department will have a chair and the current administrators in the College of Nursing—Dean Kimberly Christopher, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies Karen Barnett, and Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research June Horowitz—will continue to oversee the college. Professor Frank Scarano will continue to serve as MLS department chair.

“By transferring our successful Medical Laboratory Science program to the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, we are expanding clinical science educational opportunities for UMass Dartmouth students and preparing them to meet workforce needs in health care,” said Dean Christopher. “This is a logical alignment to build interprofessional education between nursing and medical lab science students as they learn to care for patients as members of a health care team.”

Both the transfer and college name change are effective immediately for the Fall 2019 semester. The transfer of an existing department into an existing college will have little impact on resources as both programs will continue their present processes and remain in their current locations in the Dion building, according to Dean Christopher.

Nursing students practice taking vitals in the Sim Lab
Nursing students learn to take a patient's vital signs in the SimLab. The transfer of the Medical Laboratory Science program into the College of Nursing and Health Sciences will align the university's two professional health science majors and will enhance learning and collaboration between students and faculty.

Alignment will enhance collaboration and training 

“Aligning Medical Laboratory Science in the newly named College of Nursing and Health Sciences will help to prepare future medical professionals to provide high-quality patient care,” said Scarano. “Beginning with experiential learning in their first semester through clinical rotations in their last year, our MLS students learn to analyze and provide valuable information to the patient’s health care team using a patient-centered approach that is similar to a medical school model.”

Student learning and collaboration between faculty and students of the two programs will be greatly enhanced, according to Christopher and Scarano. Grouping departments with a clinical focus will facilitate interprofessional faculty and student interactions, which will strengthen the clinical program offerings and align with the national goal of preparing health professionals to work in team-based health care delivery systems. Combined nursing and MLS clinical simulation will meet the interprofessional student educational requirement implemented by the College of Collegiate Nursing Education, the national nursing accrediting agency.

“This is an interprofessional education model,” said Christopher. “It will allow both our nursing and MLS students to build professional knowledge, respect, and empathy for each other’s roles in order to achieve the highest quality of patient care. Students can collaborate in simulated experiences and learn from each other. This will create stronger health care teams.”

Medical laboratory scientists play a critical role on the health care team as they analyze blood, bodily fluids, tissues, and cells to provide information that is used to determine both the causes of diseases and the appropriate treatments. This information is shared with the rest of the health care team to facilitate the best patient outcomes and to promote good health.

“It is estimated that more than 70% of all medical decisions are based on data that medical laboratory scientists provide to the health care team,” Scarano added.

Professor Frank Scarano with Andrew Gabrielson '18
Professor Frank Scarano, medical laboratory science department chair, works with Andrew Gabrielson '18 during an experiential class. It is estimated that more than 70% of all medical decisions are based on data that medical laboratory scientists provide to the health care team.

Nursing and MLS departments have high success rates

Both departments have successfully recruited, retained, and graduated students well prepared to enter the health care workforce. The College of Nursing, with 450 undergraduates, has a 50-year history of providing high quality nursing education. The college graduates highly sought-after beginning clinicians, advanced practitioners, and professional nurse leaders. Last year’s graduates achieved a 99% pass rate on the NCLEX nurse licensing exam.

The MLS Department has consistently achieved a 100% success rate for graduates finding employment in the field and attending graduate school. The department has been continuously accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science since its implementation in 1985. MLS graduates have historically achieved an excellent pass rate on the national certification exam, and the latest three-year average of 91% is well above the national average. Many go on to attain graduate degrees in medicine, public health, and hospital laboratory management.

With over 100 students and ten faculty members, the MLS Department is one of the largest in the United States and is one of only three programs in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

As an integrated university-based program, UMassD MLS students begin working with clinical specimens in their first introductory course and continue throughout the curriculum, according to Scarano.

“This is an advantage over many other programs as it continues to stimulate students’ interest by applying theory to real life,” Scarano added. “Putting the science in the context of human health makes the theory relevant and promotes student success.”

The program culminates in the senior year with block-style courses and clinical laboratory simulations in the fall semester followed by clinical rotations in the spring semester. UMassD MLS students complete their rotations at one of over 20 affiliated hospitals including Massachusetts General Hospital, Tufts Medical Center, and Boston Children’s Hospital.


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