A medlab scientist’s journey to certification. Interview with Rhea Bugarin, MLT

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Meeting the CEO of the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) at the CIIP pre-departure orientation in Manila proved to be fortuitous for Rhea Bugarin. The meeting actually inspired her to re-assess her career path and to start looking into the process of certification for medical laboratory technologists.

Prior to her departure (she left for Manitoba in 2013), she started taking online courses with English Online to boost her knowledge about settling in Manitoba and upgrade her language proficiency. She also started preparing for her medical technologist certification. Rhea shares her three-step approach:

“First, I wanted to build motivation. So I researched about the demand for my profession in Manitoba, the standard salary and other pertinent information. I also asked myself whether I wanted to stay in this field. This is important because in order to stick to your plan, you have to have great reasons for doing it.

“Second, I researched the steps and requirements for certification. And third, I drafted a plan of action. This included goal-setting and putting a target date for completion. Setting a target date kept me on track and prevented me from putting off my plans,” Rhea said.

A two-year process

Completing the requirements

The first task was to know the licensing process while still in the Philippines. This included completing the educational requirements, training, and getting other documents needed before she left for MB. According to Rhea, “obtaining them or at least knowing how to request for these documents may make it easier for you when you do it before arrival. If you don’t have financial or time constraints and you really want to work as an MLT as soon as possible, you can start the process before coming to Canada as long as you have the necessary documents”.

Immersion and finding alternatives

When you are already in Canada and you are determined to practice, immerse yourself in the field. “Get an entry level job on that exact work setting (clinical laboratory), one that gives you a good view of the field but does not require a license (e.g. laboratory assistant or lab technician). There you will meet people who have undergone and completed the registration process. Learn about the basics of clinical laboratory science in a Canadian setting. Understand the difference between the two settings (the Canadian setting and what you are used to in your native country). Get a feel of your job’s long term potential in relation to your financial and self-actualization goals,” Rhea said.

“Research on other opportunities that were not available to you before (e.g. lab research, medical IT). This way you will have an alternative if things don’t turn out as you expected. This will make the process longer since you might have to squeeze in time working on alternative routes while studying for the CSMLS certification exam. But it’s good to have a plan B, especially if it’s better than plan A. You might even end up doing plan B after accomplishing plan A. Resources such as Alternate careers or BioTalent Canada can give you a glimpse of the alternatives,” Rhea said.

Education and credentials assessment

For Rhea, this part took more than a year. Here she relates the steps she undertook and some tips to maximize your time:

Assessing Education by WES (World Education Services)
“This is one of PLA-CSMLS requirements. Request your university to submit the necessary documents for education evaluation. WES Canada is one of the few organizations that officially evaluates international education and determines its equivalence to Canadian standards. They will send the result to PLA-CSMLS upon request.

Credential Assessment by PLA-CSMLS
“You can start the PLA process while waiting for the WES result. This requires requesting previous employers in your home country to send necessary documents to PLA-CSMLS. CSMLS (Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Scientists) is the national certifying body for medical laboratory science including laboratory technology. Within CSMLS, PLA (Prior Learning Assessment) is the department that evaluates credentials (education and work experience) of internationally educated applicants. They determine whether you:

  • are eligible to take the exam
  • lack hours of training or work experience in a particular discipline and will have to take a course or several courses
  • need to take a bridging program that covers all the needed courses, or
  • need to take the entire medical technology program

CSMLS Certification Exam

“While waiting for PLA result, study wisely using the right resources. This is where working with people who have undergone the same process really helps. Look for free bridging programs or mentorship if available in the province or your work place. You may be required to attend courses. Although costly, classes will ensure that you will get the right resources.

Provincial CMLTM license

“After passing the CSMLS certification exam, you can apply for a license to practice in your province. CMLTM (College of Medical Laboratory Technologists of Manitoba) is the regulatory body for the profession of Medical Technology in Manitoba. You will need to submit to them your CSMLS certification and other documents to apply for the license. Depending on your provincial jurisdiction, you might be required to take another exam. Make sure to check what is required in your specific province/territory.”

It is important to note that there have been some changes to regulations since Rhea undertook the process. For those intending to work in Manitoba, a great guide to check out is Steps to CMLTM Registration which summarizes the stages, requirements and costs involved in the entire process. You can also use the CMLTM Registration Talking Powerpoint for internationally-educated applicants as a guide through the registration process. ALWAYS check the CSMLS site for the latest updates.

A great accomplishment

Today, Rhea looks back on her experience with a great sense of accomplishment because she prepared for it. “Having your qualifications recognized here, like any other endeavor takes a lot of thought and effort. But once you start the process, you will think twice about quitting.” Rhea said.

This is why she takes every chance that she can get to encourage newcomers who may be having trouble deciding on their career path. She feels that if she can do it, so can other newcomers, given the right information and motivation. Aside from telling us her story, Rhea has been a Career e-Mentor for English Online and a CMLTM mentor. In these volunteer roles, Rhea guided newly-arrived Manitoban immigrants in the same field to help them prepare to practice their profession in the province. Aside from giving them advice about licensure and registration, she also shared an insider’s view of how Medical Laboratory Technologists work and provided other tips about Canadian workplace culture.

To know more about Rhea Bugarin’s immigration experience, read her Newcomer Story.
If you need the help of a Career e-Mentor, go to One-on-One Learning.


Tips and take aways

  1. Research on your profession before coming to Canada. First off, determine your National Occupation Code (NOC) and check whether your profession is regulated or not. It is also important to find out the demand for your profession. This is a good gauge of your chances of getting employed in the specific province/territory you are immigrating to.
  2.  

  3. If your profession is regulated in Canada, research about the accreditation/certification requirements before you leave. Find out if you can start the application process while you are still in your home country, although fees might vary for non-Canadian residents. Requesting for required documents may be easier when you have ready access to your school/ educational institution/or place where you trained. It is important that all your document requirements, such as educational credentials are complete (and if not in English or French, translated, to avoid delay in your credential assessment) or at least know how to request for them according to the specific guidelines.
  4.  

  5. Another important thing about checking out the requirements thoroughly (and before you leave for Canada) is that it enables you to complete required courses and hours of training that you may lack, before you apply for assessment. This will save you a lot of time and money.
  6.  

  7. If your mind is set on practicing your profession in Canada, get a job that is related to your field when you get here. However, you have to be ready to settle for a lower or entry level position while you are still unlicensed. Working in your field allows you to gain Canadian experience and get support in terms of resources (such as books and manuals, and other Canadian references from colleagues) as well as tips from the network you build. You will also learn about and be eligible for financial support for bridging or other programs which your company may be offering.
  8.  

  9. Find out about government (or other sector) support for certification or licensing. There may be financial aid, mentoring and other support programs available to help you in the process. This will help encourage you to strive for certification or licensure and make the load much lighter and maybe even faster.
  10.  

  11. Learn as much as you can from the people you meet in your certification journey. The right people will be willing to help you succeed.
  12.  

  13. Be prudent. Try devising alternative routes. This may save you from the frustration of failure and the trouble of getting back up.
  14.  

  15. Do your best to update or give back to the people or organizations that have helped you accomplish steps in your journey. This will let them know how much you remember and appreciate their efforts. It will also make you feel good and motivate you to keep going forward.

Disclaimer: English Online shares stories of newcomers who have successfully achieved their licensure or certification for the purpose of encouraging other newcomers who are aspiring to practice their regulated professions in Manitoba. As personal circumstances, credentials, and experiences vary from person to person, the experience related in the feature may not be the same for all aspirants. Also, rules, eligibility requirements and procedures may have changed from the time the featured professional completed their licence to the time the story was published. Therefore, it is important that internationally-educated and trained professionals contact and connect with their respective professional associations or regulatory bodies to get up-to-date information. English Online does not provide credential assessment or qualifications recognition services.

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