Mitchell College students get close-up look at L+M departments
New London ― Three Mitchell College students considering careers in public health got an eyeful Wednesday at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, where they toured the pathology and emergency departments.
Seeing, they confirmed later, is believing.
What impressed them most, they said, was the seemingly seamless operation of a place that relies on protocols, precision and ― as Dr. Craig Mittleman, director of L+M’s emergency services, told them ― keen observation of patients’ conditions.
“Everyone has separate responsibilities but work together as a team,” Bella Avalos, a senior from Southern California, said. “You could see that in the way they do triage.”
Francesca Zamarripa, a junior from Tampa, Fla., and Lonnie Johnson, a senior from Freeport, Bahamas, also marveled at the teamwork.
Professor Erica Watson, who teaches a public health class at Mitchell, said she contacted the hospital and other institutions in the community to ask whether they’d provide her students with a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes.
In addition to L+M, the fire department, a homeless shelter and the region’s public health department responded favorably.
“I was very impressed with their openness, the welcomeness of the entire staff,” Watson said after her and her students’ nearly two-hour visit to the hospital, which she described as “helpful and educational.”
For L+M’s part, it was an opportunity to pitch careers in health care.
Nicole Caillouette, L+M’s director of lab services, led the students through the pathology department’s chemistry lab and blood bank and areas devoted to microbiology, hematology, the study of blood diseases, and histology, the microscopic analysis of tissues.
The people who test blood, urine and other bodily fluids as well as tissue samples are known as medical technologists, Caillouette said, but most people don’t know what they do.
“They ask, ‘Are you a nurse?’” she said. “Not a lot of people are entering the field.”
L+M’s pathology department supports nearly a dozen nursing homes as well as assisted-living facilities and doctors’ offices, sending couriers to pick up specimens for testing. Ensuring the samples are properly identified is an early step in the process. Vials bear barcodes that tell each specimen’s story. A network of pneumatic tubes sends them around the hospital.
“We do two million tests a year in this lab,” Caillouette said.
The blood bank gets its blood from the Red Cross and other locations and sends it where it’s needed throughout the Yale New Haven Health system, Caillouette said. Even if blood is collected at the hospital, it must be sent to the Red Cross for processing.
In hematology, Dr. Victoria Reyes, a pathology specialist, discussed a computer image of a blood test and what white blood cell counts can reveal.
The students moved onto the emergency room, which Mittleman said has been busy dealing with patients with respiratory diseases, including RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, the flu and “a little COVID.”
“ER sees everything,” Mittleman said. “The old and the young. Babies are delivered here. … Everyone works shoulder to shoulder. It’s not for everyone but some people, like me, really thrive off the energy.”
L+M’s emergency room sees 160 patients a day, he said, adding that if you include the family and friends who accompany patients, the count is more like 400 to 500 people a day.
Mittleman noted about a third of the patients the ER sees have some type of issue involving mental health, an area in which Avalos said she had some interest. When such patients can’t be dealt with in the ER, they are admitted to the main hospital, frequently filling its 17 in-patient psychiatric beds.
“There are never enough people who enter the (behavioral health) field,” Mittleman said.
Mittleman discovered a connection with Johnson, the student from the Bahamas, who is a cousin of Jonquel Jones, the Bahamian-born WNBA standout who played six seasons with the Connecticut Sun before being traded to the New York Liberty. Mittleman is part of a Yale New Haven Health team that provides the Sun with medical care.
Editor’s note: This version of the article corrects Bella Avalos’ class.
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