Medical laboratory scientists are professionals who carry out various tests in medical laboratories. The aim of their work is to help the doctor to arrive at a diagnosis of the patient's condition by evaluating samples and carrying out appropriate tests. The job demands high level of dedication, as night shifts and weekend work are quite common. A medical laboratory scientist should have good people skills to deal effectively with patients. Besides work in diagnosis, medical laboratory professionals can work in areas related to latest medical research and development.
Nature of Work
Diagnostic laboratory testing plays a crucial role in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease. Medical laboratory scientists take samples of the patient's body fluids or tissues and analyze them for any irregularities. Microscopes, chemical analyzers and other high tech instruments such as cell counters are used for testing. The responsibility of the medical laboratory scientist also extends to analysis and interpretation of the test results. This requires in-depth knowledge of chemical and biological sciences. These results are then passed on to the doctor, who makes treatment decisions based on them.
Areas of Specialization
Medical laboratory scientists perform a wide range of complex tests to assist doctors. Immunohematology scientists work with blood and blood components and prepare them for transfusion. They evaluate blood samples and identify matches for transfusions. Chemical laboratory scientists analyze the chemical and hormonal content of body fluids. They test for drug levels in the blood to follow the patient's response to treatment and conduct tests to determine concentrations of chemical compounds like glucose or cholesterol in the body. Some laboratory scientists specialize in cell evaluation. They evaluate slides of body cells under the microscope for abnormalities in the cell structure and cell counts. These abnormalities may be the precursor to cancerous growth.
Educational and Licensure Requirements
The minimum education requirement for a medical laboratory scientist is a bachelor's degree in medical technology. The curriculum offers specialized courses pertinent to clinical laboratory functions, besides subjects like chemistry, biology and microbiology. The coursework also exposes would-be medical laboratory scientists to concepts of management and computer applications. Programs are accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). Some states require laboratory personnel to be licensed. The licensure requirements vary from state to state, but usually involve the passing of an exam. Prospective employers may prefer candidates who are certified by recognized professional associations like the Board of Registry for American Society of Clinical Pathology and the American Medical Technologists. The certification requirements vary from agency to agency.
Medical laboratory scientists may work in hospitals or private sector laboratories. Pharmaceutical firms may hire experienced personnel for new product development. Employment opportunities are also available in research institutes. Some may work in police forensic laboratories. As in all professions, career in teaching is also an option for medical laboratory scientists.