After completing her bachelor's degree in chemistry with a minor in Earth and Environmental Sciences, Kristina Ummenhofer went on the search for jobs.
She wanted to work in a hospital’s lab helping people. She was told many times that if she went to university and got a degree then she would get a job.
“I applied for jobs all over Canada,” she said. “Lots of them only paid about $15 an hour and they wouldn’t even hire me. I made more working at McDonalds.”
Living in Penticton at the time, Kristina contacted the lab manager at the local hospital to ask about work. He offered to give her a tour of the hospital. While on the tour, he informed her that she needed a Medical Laboratory Science Technology diploma to work in a hospital lab. And until she had one, she couldn’t be hired.
“I had various emotions,” she said. “I was angry that I did all that schooling and couldn’t get a job afterwards. But I was excited to finally know how to get where I wanted.”
While on the tour, Kristina met a College of New Caledonia student working in the lab. She was there for a practicum, part of CNC’s Medical Laboratory Science Technology program.
“She told me all about the program in Prince George, one of only two in BC,” she said. “Studying in Vancouver was the other option, but the waitlist was two years long. Classes in that program were four or five times bigger than CNC’s anyway, and I wanted to go to a place where I could get one-on-one attention.”
She got exactly what she wanted when she started the CNC Med Lab program soon after.
“I loved it,” Kristina said. “When I was in university, I felt lost. I came to CNC and it immediately felt like family, like home. My classmates were really close, and our instructors really cared about our learning. Even if you emailed them at 11 p.m., they were happy to help you.”
The program was challenging but covered everything she needed and wanted to learn.
“Everything they taught me at CNC, I’m able use at the hospital,” Kristina said. “When I did my practicum, they said I was one of best prepared students they ever had.”
She graduated from CNC in 2018. Now 26 years old, she is finally in the career she’s always wanted.
“I finished my practicum at the Penticton hospital on April 10 and started my job in Prince George six days later,” she said. “I applied to 16 places and had my pick of wherever I wanted to go. I chose PG because I really enjoy northern B.C. I love all the forests, lakes and hiking. People here are so nice and it’s affordable to live.”
After working at the hospital full-time, Kristina has now dropped down to a casual position. That’s because, she’s picked up a one-year contract at CNC, working as a Prep Tech, prepping labs for students.
“I’ve come full circle,” she said.
Opportunities for future grads of the Med Lab program are just as plentiful.
“In the next five years, 50 per cent of lab techs are going to retire and there’s not enough people to fill the positions,” Kristina said.