A local health service program in Edmonton is looking to draw students to work in rural areas, boasting a blend of practical lab work and intensive technological studies.

The program, Laboratory and X-Ray Technology program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, teaches its students to serve in rural health care centres (15-60 beds) and awards the graduate with a diploma after a two-year course.

The unique function of the program is that both laboratory and X-ray courses are introduced and taught, including elements such as blood testing and chemistry.

“We service the rural community and the students would be hired in a smaller centre,” said Terry Schlitter, associate chair for the program. “The program is wonderful and hands-on with what they’ll see when they (get) out there.”

Schlitter said that the program has a 100 per cent hire rate, with health centres as far away as British Columbia and Prince Edward Island coming to look for graduates from the program.

“They want our students,” she said. “There are only two programs (in Canada) like ours.”

One common misconception, Schlitter said, is that people think rural health services are behind the times when it comes to up-to-date medical techniques. In fact, the medical facilities are not only modern but also linked provincially, Schlitter said.

“When I go travelling, the equipment that you would think would be old is brand new,” she said. “The rural centres have state of art equipment ... it’s all computerized so the whole province is linked.”

This year the program had 39 spots for 130 applicants, but she said the number is a bit exaggerated since students sometimes apply for multiple programs, some with overlapping aspects.

According to the NAIT website, the next application start date for the program starts Aug. 31.

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