During her sophomore year in the Clinical Laboratory Technician program at Northern Michigan University, Kathleen Mielosyk '22 had to complete a practicum. A proud resident of Ironwood, Mich. in the Western Upper Peninsula, Mielosyk was lucky enough to be placed where she wanted to be: Aspirus Ironwood Hospital.

“Both of my parents grew up in Ironwood. They went to the same high school. After they were married, they moved to Green Bay for different job prospects but ended up coming back for family purposes, and now they can’t imagine living anywhere else,” Mielosyk said. “I ended up going to the same high school they went to, ended up meeting my fiancé there, and I’ve been in this area ever since. I love it here.”

Serving her immediate community was a large part of wanting her practicum to take place at Aspirus Ironwood. She enjoyed her time there, and the feeling was mutual on the hospital’s end. So mutual in fact, they offered her a PRN position. As she continues to complete her senior year, she works in the hospital lab when demand is high. Once she is done with school, she hopes to move into a full-time position.

Staying in the Upper Peninsula has always been a drive for Mielosyk. She realized she wanted to be in a clinical science career field in high school, when she and a group of friends competed in a BioAthlon; a biathlon for biology. After high school, she attended Gogebic Community College and took courses with the intention of transferring to NMU. Her love of the U.P., paired with her passion for helping people, made her the perfect candidate for serving her fellow Yoopers.  Mielosyk believes that more young U.P. residents should keep an open mind when it comes to staying in the region.

“A lot of times I don’t think people have the openness of wanting to stay in a rural area. They think they need to move to a big city where there are more options,” she said. “They don’t realize the benefits that go along with staying in a rural area.”

Read more about Katheen Mielosyk’s experience studying and working in rural health care!


What was it that drew you to pursuing a career as a lab tech?

This was quite the journey for me. Middle school into early high school I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be in a hospital setting, but what flipped the switch for me is a funny story. Freshman year of high school a group of friends and I participated in a BioAthlon, like a biathlon but for biology. It had microbiology, urinalysis, and various biology subjects, which was brand new to me at the time. That just kind of flipped a switch and made me feel that I needed to find something that looks more into these skills. I liked it! My mother had a friend who was a lab technician working at Gogebic at the time, so she had me go talk to her to just open the door with that field. I fell in love! She’s the one who helped me set up courses with Gogebic so that they would seamlessly transition to NMU.

At Northern, you have to go through your sophomore practicum which comes at the end of your associates degree. I was lucky enough to be placed where I wanted to be, right in Ironwood. I really liked working there because they were a great group.Thankfully, they wanted me to stay. Currently, I just have a PRN position which means I only work when they need me there because I am still in school. But, I’m hoping for a full time position once I’m completely done with school.

What makes you want to continue in this career field?

Something that has resonated with me is the interactions that take place  with  coworkers. It’s a tight knit group…and that goes across the different departments. All the nurses are close. All of the infusion nurses are close. Everyone is a tight knit group. The groups have a really great dynamic together. You have a lovely set of people who not only care about celebrating with you, but they also will grieve with you in times when things happen.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing patients improve. That’s a big part of why I went into healthcare; I care about people and I just wanted to have a job where I was directly involved in that process.

How do you feel about living, studying, and working in the Upper Peninsula?

I love the area. I love the relaxing aspect of being out in nature. When it’s nice outside, my coworker and I go outside at lunchtime and hit the road walking which is especially rewarding when we’re stressed. It’s just relaxing and you get to have those moments to yourself to recollect. I really like that part of it. If things happen where it doesn’t work out securing a full-time position at my local hospital, I still want to stay in the U.P. for sure.

I have nothing but praise for the clinical laboratory science program at NMU. They have done a fantastic job and are a lovely group of people. My academic advisor, Paula Genovese, is just a wonderful person with great stories to share.

Tell us an impactful story.

Right before Christmas last year, one of my coworkers took it upon herself to be “Santa’s Little Helper”. She made individual little Christmas stockings and she would write wonderful sayings about how much people are appreciated on them and she hung them all around the lab to make everyone’s day. I thought that was just so wonderful and thoughtful.

As far as patients go, seeing people at their worst and being able to share that moment with them and demonstrate compassion is very important to me. I remember one gentleman who came into the ER and he was in really rough shape. They ended up putting him on comfort care. I had to draw his blood later and he couldn’t speak, but he wanted to hold someone's hand. I sat with him and held his hand until his family arrived. It was a very sad but touching experience for me.

What is something you see that could be improved as far as Upper Peninsula healthcare goes?

The hardest thing I think has been increasing the public’s awareness about these healthcare related positions. I didn’t know what a lab technician was until I did my own research. You don’t hear about these positions. When you go into the hospital and see people drawing blood, many people automatically think they’re a nurse. You never hear about these other positions that exist. That's a big thing.

Do you have any advice for those aspiring to pursue a healthcare career?

My biggest advice for someone wanting to pursue a position is to keep an open mind about working in a rural area. I think that’s huge. All of my friends wanted to leave the area, they had no interest in  wanting to stay and I thought they were crazy.

You need to be really good at dividing your time and multitasking. When you’re working in a small rural area you’re not just going to be working one part of the lab, you’re going to be running around like a crazy person trying to get things done throughout the day. So, staying open, keeping your eyes open for problems that you see. Everyone is a problem solver at that lab. You can’t just do your own thing, you have to help your colleagues out along the way.


The Northern Michigan University Center for Rural Health seeks to improve the health and well-being of Upper Peninsula residents and communities by developing collaborative partnerships that enhance the access and availability of affordable, quality healthcare services. For questions or comments related to this story, contact ruralhealth@nmu.edu.