HARRISONBURG — Sentara RMH Medical Center will become only the second hospital in the U.S. to offer a nationally certified program in the high-demand field of histotechnology.
Histology is the study of the structure of cells and their formation into tissues and organs.
Histotechnologists prepare and stain tissue for the detection of abnormalities and disease, said Sue Lawton, director of Sentara RMH’s School of Histotechnology.
“It’s a big section as far as diagnosis is involved. … There’s a big demand for it,” Lawton said.
Students in the School of Histotechnology will undergo one year of coursework that includes clinical experience and lectures from leading professionals.
After the program, students will take the histotechnologist certification exam.
The school’s structure will be similar to that of the Sentara RMH School of Medical Laboratory Sciences, which has a 100 percent pass rate for national certification exams over 14 years.
The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences has accredited only seven histotechnology programs in the U.S., six of which are in university settings.
The only other hospital to run such a program is Beaumont Health System in Michigan.
Lawton credited the 2011 merger of Norfolk-based Sentara Healthcare with Rockingham Memorial Hospital for making the program possible.
“The fact that we merged with Sentara has really opened up a huge resource for starting a program like this,” she said. “You would be hard-pressed to start one just with RMH.”
Applications are being accepted for the School of Histotechnology, with the first class beginning study in June. Tuition is $5,000 for the year. To be accepted into the program, students must have at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in biology or chemistry.
Lawton said one of the advantages of the program is that it provides a path for students to get a good job shortly after graduation.
Students who pass the certification exam should have no trouble finding work, whether in the Valley or elsewhere.
Katie Olson, lead histotechnologist at Sentara RMH and education coordinator for the school, said the hospital had a lab position open for eight months while waiting for a qualified applicant.
“Even in the local area there’s a present need,” she said. “Nationally, there is one, too.”
Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or email@example.com