As a Cytotechnologist, Kristen Morandin was accustomed to sitting at a microscope accurately diagnosing slides seven hours a day. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her role changed drastically.
After graduating from the Diagnostic Cytology program at the Michener Institute of Education at UHN in 2018, Kristen began training for her new role at Dynacare in Brampton, Ont. even before receiving her exam results.
“My education at Michener allowed me to learn the fundamentals of cytology and histology while also placing an emphasis on important soft skills for the laboratory, such as communication and interprofessional collaboration,” she says.
In the Diagnostic Cytology program, students take molecular theory courses and participate in labs that demonstrate the theories they’re learning. During labs, students explore concepts such as DNA extraction and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a molecular biology technique that makes millions to billions of copies of a specific genetic target, allowing scientists to detect a very small amount of virus in a sample by amplifying the target DNA or RNA to detectable levels.
When the number of COVID-19 swabs arriving at the lab began to increase, they were in need of more technologists familiar with PCR – the test used to determine swab results.
“What I learned in these labs is what made me an attractive candidate for transfer to the genetics COVID-19 lab at Dynacare,” says Kristen. “Having experience with micropipettes, understanding the theory of PCR and getting to apply that knowledge in lab courses at Michener has allowed me to contribute these skills during the pandemic.”
These days, Kristen spends most of her day on her feet testing and resulting patient samples, as well as training new employees.
“A COVID-19 lab is a challenging work environment that is fast paced, but it also provides the satisfaction and reward of knowing I’m doing my part,” she says.
Michener is currently one of two schools in Canada that offers a Diagnostic Cytology program.
“The knowledge and skills Michener provides its students allows for continuous learning and makes Michener graduates assets to their workplaces,” says Kristen.