SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital 1st floor transformation continues

March 8, 2019

New 7,300-square foot space for hospital laboratory has more efficient floor plan

CENTRALIA, IL (February 25, 2019) – SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Centralia has completed construction on a new 7,300 square-foot laboratory in a span of 10 months and seamlessly transitioned into the new space in Fall 2018. The new laboratory provides staff adequate space to keep pace with advancing technologies and positions SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital to accommodate the future of automated laboratory lines. “The new laboratory is a modern, ergonomic design that is very flexible to accommodate change. It allows us to streamline processes and increase productivity,” said Carol Koehler, Director of Laboratory Services, SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital.

Damon Harbison, President, SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital, says the hospital continues down the path of transformation as scheduled and provides another shining example of being a pillar in the communities it serves. “Our investment into people, facilities, and technology aligns with our focus on longevity and presence. Overall, the master facilities plan prepares SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital for the future,” said Harbison.

Gone is the maze of hallways and pieced-together departments of the old laboratory. Today, an expanded and open concept floorplan is how a person is welcomed when entering the new lab. “The core lab, where the majority of specimens are processed, tested and distributed, serves as the nucleus of the layout,” Koehler said. Additionally, branching off the core lab are departments for on-site pathology and microbiology, blood bank, and staff offices. “The departments’ proximity to the core lab was an essential piece in the new design,” Koehler said.

While meeting the need to have a modern laboratory to better serve patients, the new laboratory at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital helps support the education and training of future medical laboratory technicians (MLT) – and having those future MLTs working at SSM Health in Southern Illinois hospitals in Centralia and Mt. Vernon.

There is a growing demand for certified MLTs nationwide with 29,000 jobs according to U.S. News and World Report which again ranked in the top 100 Best Jobs for 2018. In 2016, there were more than 900 MLT and Medical Technologist (MT) positions open in the state of Illinois and only 200 students graduated from MT or MLT programs in the state. According to research, at least 70% of all medical decisions are based upon data from the laboratory. It is because of this growing need that SSM Health began an MLT program at SSM Health Good Samaritan Hospital-Mt. Vernon and SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Centralia in August 2018.

“Our hospitals employ MLTs and in recent years have found it increasingly challenging to find certified individuals,” said Brenda Alexander, System Vice President of Human Resources, SSM Health in Southern Illinois. “This program helps us and our region fill this need while also providing excellent career opportunities.”

MLTs work under the supervision of Medical Laboratory Scientists; they perform most of the common laboratory tests in a medical laboratory. Those test results help doctors determine the right treatments for patients – and occasionally lead to extraordinary breakthroughs. Individuals who loved performing experiments in science classes, may want to consider a career as an MLT.

SSM Health’s MLT Program, led by Anh Strow, MPH, MLS, is now accepting students, with the next class to start in August 2019. This group of students will have a graduation scheduled for June 2020. “The MLT educational program welcomes new students into our facility to work toward their MLT certification,” said Stroh. “This unique program will develop workforce resources within our community and create solid health care career options that encourage local youth to stay and build a life within our communities.”

Ms. Alexander acknowledges the importance of this program to economic viability between SSM Health and the community. “Many people are not aware of the many career opportunities that exist in health care, one of which is a MLT. With the declining number of MLT schools and the important role MLTs have in health care, it became imperative that SSM Health take a proactive approach to ensure the continuity of available technicians in southern Illinois. A career as an MLT provides an opportunity for residents of our surrounding communities to have a great career without leaving the area,” Alexander said.

More information about MLT careers, the SSM Health MLT Program, student criteria, and applications are available by visiting SSM Health’s website,

PHOTO CAPTION: The new 7,300-square foot laboratory provides staff adequate space to keep pace with advancing technologies and positions SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital to accommodate the future of automated laboratory lines.