2021 graduate Kayleigh Baylor credits Laurel Ridge Community College with leading her to a fulfilling career in medical laboratory technology (MLT). Now, she returns the favor by helping to train current Laurel Ridge MLT students when they come to her workplace for clinical experience.
“Laurel Ridge has just been life changing for me,” said Baylor, who will graduate from Liberty University with a degree in general health science this May. “It’s opened up so many doors for me. It helped me find a career that I really love.”
After graduating from high school in 2013, Baylor, who lives in Culpeper, but grew up in Manassas, enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University. Before finishing her degree in interdisciplinary science with a concentration in pre-healthcare, she had her daughter, Kaylani, now 4, and left school. However, while at VCU, Baylor began working as a medical assistant, something she continued to do after returning home.
“I’ve always wanted to be in healthcare,” Baylor said. “I was debating whether to go into nursing or med school, and I knew about clinical laboratory science, but I wasn’t sure.”
But, while working as a medical assistant she realized she was more interested in the science side of healthcare than the patient-interaction aspect.
“I wanted to help people, but I didn’t necessarily want to be interacting with patients every day,” Baylor explained.
She was able to transfer many of her VCU credits into Laurel Ridge, allowing her to go straight into the MLT program in 2019. Baylor, who benefitted from the Laurel Ridge Educational Foundation’s Student Success Fund while she was at the college, said she found the program to be very accommodating.
“It was still competitive, but I liked how I was able to communicate with [program director] Kate Gochenour and the professors,” she said. “I still had a little one when I was in school, and they could see that I was driven, and they were so helpful. I could just tell that they wanted me to do well. That really helped motivate me to get through it.”
Baylor was a part of Laurel Ridge’s TRIO program, which provides additional advising and other support services to students who are first-generation college students, or low income, or have a documented disability.
She did her required clinicals at Fauquier Hospital, where she now has a full-time job as a generalist lab tech. Additionally, she is the auditor of hand hygiene at the lab.
“I love it,” Baylor said of her job. “I work in every department. We have the blood sent to us by phlebotomy and we then analyze the samples. We analyze samples from the chemistry, hematology, blood bank and microbiology labs.”
She said she was especially busy during the pandemic with so many covid tests requiring analysis.
“I love what I do,” Baylor said. “I feel like there’s a lot of room for growth. There are lots of things I can still learn and work towards. My ultimate goal is probably to become a specialist in the blood bank. After that, I want to work for the Virginia Department of Health as an epidemiologist. I’m really into infection prevention.”
Another aspect of her job Baylor loves is serving as a preceptor at Fauquier Hospital for Laurel Ridge MLT students.
“This involves veteran MLTs guiding students in on-the-job training in the core lab/hands-on MLT work, as well as for the American Society of Clinical Pathology Board of Certification Exam prep,” she said. “I enjoy working with the students because it allows me to become a better tech by learning through teaching. I’m also able to offer students a different perspective since I just finished MLT school in 2021 and everything I learned is still fresh in my brain. I enjoy seeing the Laurel Ridge students learn and thrive as new techs.”
You can learn more about Laurel Ridge’s MLT program at laurelridge.edu/MLT. The program qualifies for G3 funding, so qualified students may be eligible for last-dollar tuition coverage after all other financial aid and scholarships have been applied. The median salary for medical and clinical laboratory technologists within a 50-mile radius of Middletown is $60,098, with 410 annual job openings, according to EMSI Career Coach.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.