by Doris Todd
The Director, April 2010

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With its recently completed embalming lab renovation, Piedmont Technical college in Greenwood, South Carolina, now offers its funeral service students an advanced, state-of-the-art learning environment and provides continuing-education opportunities for area funeral professionals.

Piedmont replaced an existing mock embalming lab with a fully operational and OSHA-compliant embalming room complete with an air-handling system. A classroom space was incorporated into the final plan, resulting in a 400-square-foot lab with custom cabinetry and a full complement of preparation room equipment. In addition to the requisite table and embalming machine, the lab is outfitted with a specialized morgue table receptor, water control unit and safety equipment, including eye wash and overhead drench shower. Also installed were all-important but often-overlooked plumbing safeguards that prevent contaminated water from entering the main facility. A dressing room, storage area and body cooler complete the lab installation.

“Our old lab was not equipped to teach as thoroughly as we would have liked,” said David Martin, funeral services director. “Students had to travel to local funeral homes to observe and participate in the embalming process. We are now able to offer them hands-on training on campus.” Martin added that the school’s embalming practicum class with local funeral directors will continue. “Experience in a fully professional environment will also acquaint the student with health and safety standards that are required in the profession today,” he said.

The school took into consideration in its plans a new mandate, effective with the fall semester 2010, that requires mortuary and funeral service educational entities to have a demonstration or functioning embalming lab on site. The American Board of Funeral Service Education, which accredits Piedmont Tech, has published the following: “Each program must maintain an on-campus embalming preparation space either fully functional or for demonstration purposes. The embalming space must be of sufficient size to accommodate at least one preparation table and have an electric embalming machine, instruments and real or simulated chemicals. In the case of a demonstration lab, it must adequately reflect an actual functional embalming room laboratory.”

Another highlight in Piedmont’s prep room is a high-tech broadcasting system. Two cameras, one over the table with a downward view and one with a side view of the table and instructor, make it possible to transmit the actual embalming process live to the classroom, allowing a greater number of students to observe than could be accommodated in the lab. Going forth, it is anticipated that live broadcasts can be introduced to the technical college system and to licensed funeral directors in South Carolina.

The broadcasting system offers an opportunity for specialized instruction and continuing education for funeral directors as well. In association with Life- Point SC, South Carolina’s designated organ procurement organization, a program will present seminars on how to properly prepare a body that has been subject to organ or tissue recovery. Martin, himself a licensed funeral director, is hopeful that this educational program will help alleviate the stress some funeral directors have when called upon to prepare a body that has donated organs.

A pet crematory was another forward-looking aspect of the school’s renovation and is a first among accredited funeral service curriculums. “We will work closely with area veterinarians and funeral homes needing assistance,” said Dedrick Gantt, funeral service instructor, “but the cases will be used to train students. When our students enter the field, we want to make sure they are trained and prepared for all aspects of funeral service.”

“Our ultimate goal is to remain the premier provider of professional education for the next generation of funeral directors while offering additional professional development opportunities for the funeral service industry,” added Martin.

Looking to the future makeup of student enrollment, Martin commented that fewer students are coming from family funeral service backgrounds than in the past, and more women than men are entering the profession. The average age of Piedmont students is 35. With more funeral directors expected to retire in the coming years, the field is considered one of the top professions of the decade, and Piedmont is now ready with the latest equipment and facilities.
Reprinted with permission from NFDA

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