Filipina lab tech at Philip Health Services

Melanie Tezon is the new Laboratory Technician at Philip Health Services, Inc. This is noteworthy because such skilled help is difficult to draw to rural America. Tezon arrived on July 24 from her homeland of the Philippines.

She is trained and experienced in the medical profession, and used to a rural community, but the differences in Philip, SD, will require some adjustments.

Tezon is prepared for her duties at Philip Health Services. Raised in the city of Taeloban in the province of Leyte, she graduated from a college in Cebu with an earned B.S. degree in Medical Technologies. She has three years of experience with her profession and with small communities. She previously worked at a small hospital which was an hour away from the nearest big city. Tezon has a medical certification in the Philippines as well as for America.

PHSI Lab Manager Connie Sandstrom said, "Melanie is adapting quickly. She speaks English well. Every lab has different equipment - different models from different manufactures - and she's ahead of where I thought she would be with the training on the analyzers."

Darla McCain, the second member of the now three full-time person department, said, "I'd say Melanie is ready to 'take call' already. I don't have to really help her on how to do things. She's going to be a big asset to the hospital." With the 24/7 shifts of the department, some part-time people fill in for the needed days off. "A lot of people think that when someone's shift is over, that they are done; but then we are on call," said McCain, who then joked, "At least Melanie will inherit my office nickname of 'shorty'; I've never worked with anyone shorter than me."

Tezon explained a little about her homeland, "The Philippines is a country comprised of 7,107 islands ... at low tide. Islands are a good thing because we have beaches and it's a tropical country. It's only dry and hot in the summer time when it isn't the rainy season. It's hot here in Philip. We speak our native language - there are a lot of languages there because of the many different islands - but English is our medium of teaching."

Tezon has many "American" traits already. "I love seafood, but, actually, I'm a big eater here in the hospital cafeteria." She loves to shop. "On my way here, I stayed in Seattle for a little while with Philippine friends. I shopped and was almost overweight with my luggage." She is very comfortable with the internet. "I love to chat on the computer with family and loved ones." She has Philippine friends in the medical profession who currently work in Kansas, Texas and Arkansas.

One thing that she plans to do soon is to get a driver's license. Until then, her love for shopping will be somewhat restrained. "At least I get to hold on to my money for a rainy day," said Tezon.

Tezon fills a need in Philip. Other rural facilities in the region and around the country are also hiring from out of the United States. Businesses must first prove that the position can not be filled from within the United States. In Tezon's case, the visa requires she work in a highly skilled position and requires at least a Bachelor's degree.

Sandstrom said, "There is a shortage of lab techs. We've run into this before. We advertised, with no response. I heard of this program from a sales representative. I called a fellow lab manager in Iowa to learn more. He said that all the Filipinos who he has worked with were pleasant and service-oriented. We contacted a recruiter and went through the paperwork. The really nice thing now is we have a three year commitment to fill the position."

PHSI Personnel Manager Kim Kanable said, "It took three months from the time the agent contacted us to when Melanie got here. That's pretty fast, actually."

PHSI has arranged a small, furnished house in Philip for Tezon, who said, "The living quarters are quite big for me."

"I was planning on becoming a doctor," said Tezon, "but after I graduated I thought 'How about I work?' so I pushed aside the doctor thing. For now, I have no other plans than to become more orientated here. I am so lucky that I am here in Philip because people are so warm and friendly. After three years, then we'll see."