Class trip leads to job offer for Hazleton medical laboratory technology major

Male student in white lab coat and camouflaged baseball cap looking through a microscope in a lab

Sean Demczyszyn, a student at Penn State Hazleton studying medical laboratory technology, is set to begin a full-time job as a medical laboratory technician after he graduates in May.

Credit: Penn State

HAZLETON, Pa. — Thanks to a class trip that produced an internship, which will soon lead to a full-time job, medical laboratory technology (MLT) major Sean Demczyszyn is confident he made the right choice when he enrolled at Penn State Hazleton.  

“It’s because I came here to Penn State Hazleton that everything fell into place and I ended up with a job,” Demczyszyn said. “I can’t say I would’ve had the same experiences going anywhere else.” 

Demczyszyn, a U.S. Army veteran in the final semester of the associate of science degree in medical laboratory technology program, is set to begin working as a medical laboratory technician at HNL Lab Medicine in Allentown after he graduates in May.  

Like other medical laboratory technicians, Demczyszyn will work alongside pathologists, technologists and fellow technicians analyzing patient samples to detect illness or provide information that could enable treatment. Medical laboratory technicians also perform tests and procedures ranging from routine to complex, including analyzing blood for chemical components, typing blood to ensure safe transfusion, and identifying bacteria and other microorganisms. 

His path to the role began in February 2023, when he was among a group of MLT students who visited HNL and the nearby Miller-Keystone Blood Center for a class trip organized by Lecturer and Medical Laboratory Technology Program Coordinator Lori Yeager.

Prior to the trip, Demczyszyn applied for a lab assistant position at HNL that didn’t pan out, he said. Seizing the opportunity during the tour of HNL’s facility, he asked whether he might be right for any other open positions and was encouraged to apply for a summer internship as a technician assistant (TA).  

After a few days, he got the news he was hoping for. 

“They said they’d be happy to have me,” he recalled.  

Demczyszyn spent the summer of 2023 as TA intern doing “back-end work” like collecting and organizing samples that had been tested, he said. He gained a stronger understanding of equipment, procedures and working in a professional lab. 

“I couldn’t believe how much I took away from that experience,” he said. 

As his summer internship wrapped up and he began completing fall clinicals at HNL, his manager told him if he was looking for a full-time job, now would be a good time to apply. He took the advice, applied and accepted an offer for a full-time position with great pay and benefits, he said. 

“It couldn’t have worked out any better,” he said. 

Yeager said the job offer reflects Demczyszyn’s dedication to his studies. 

“It is very rewarding for me to see Sean secure a job before he graduates,” Yeager said. “In the field of MLT, students are frequently hired before they graduate, but in Sean's case, it happened much earlier than in the past years. I feel this speaks to his work ethic and commitment to his academics. It also reflects the level of career preparedness our MLT program offers students.” 

Finding the right fit 

Demczyszyn's educational path had its share of twists and turns, he said. 

After spending three and a half years in the Army stationed in Louisiana, he knew he wanted to go back to college, only he wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do, he said. His uncertainty about a career path was what led him to leave college and join the Army in the first place, he recalled. 

“I was a chemistry major, then I was a computer security major, then I left for the Army because I was bored with all that,” he said. 

Looking for careers that stood out to him, he came across medical laboratory technology. 

“I’ve always loved lab time throughout high school and college and thought being an MLT sounded interesting,” he said. 

He began pursuing a degree at a community college close to home but struggled with some of the classes. After discovering Penn State Hazleton’s program, he emailed Yeager, who invited him to visit the campus to see if it was the right fit for him. 

It was. 

“I fell in love with the campus right away, especially the labs,” he said. 

He also fell in love with the camaraderie between fellow MLT majors, he added. 

“We study together, we eat lunch together and we have class together — and we all have fun with it,” Demczynszyn said. 

At the same time, he said, he learned anything and everything he could from Yeager, someone who he looked up to because of her professional experience in the field and her teaching style. 

“She’s such a wonderful professor because she genuinely cares about us,” he said. “She pushes us to work hard but she’s not against having fun during class.” 

Yeager said Demczyszyn is an example of what can happen when students take an interest in making connections that can lead to careers.       

“It is very important for students to talk about their career interests with others, not only with their advisers and professors, but friends and family. Word of mouth often leads to opportunities,” she said. “It is also important for students to demonstrate a strong work ethic, not only in classes, but also in work and internship experiences.” 

Program roadmap 

As part of the curriculum for students in their second year of the program, Demczyszyn did clinical rotations in phlebotomy (48 hours), urinalysis (48 hours), chemistry (112 hours), microbiology (104 hours), blood bank (112 hours) and hematology (120 hours). Picking from a wide selection of partner facilities, he was able to find laboratories close to home where he could complete the rotations, he said. 

The first year of the program, which is fully accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences, featured courses designed to prepare him for the clinical experience. He was introduced to the clinical laboratory through lectures and observation at a clinical site.  

In addition to the smaller class sizes and external clinical experiences, the length of the program was another big selling point for Demczyszyn, he said. 

“It’s nice to have a shorter program because while it can be intense, you can complete it quicker and start working after two years instead of four,” he said. 

Since Penn State Hazleton’s program is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Demczyszyn will be eligible to take the MLT American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification exam, Yeager said. If he passes, he will be an ASCP-certified MLT, which most employers require of their employees, she said. 

Demczyszyn said he plans to take the exam after starting his job in May.