Importance Of Medical Laboratory Science

Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

Being a Medical Laboratory Scientist, is one of the most lucrative career in the health industry. The skills you acquire while studying this field are highly sought after across different specialties. This article aims to teach the importance of Medical Laboratory Science and how it can lead to your desired career.

Medical laboratory scientists are responsible for the analysis of scientific specimens and samples that provide information about a person’s health. Through such procedures, information regarding various bodily fluids, tissues, and cells can be collected to help provide insights about possible diseases a person might be suffering from or whether they are healthy. A medical laboratory technician career includes mostly handling duties related to healthcare procedures and paperwork in laboratories, clinics, and hospitals. The demand for medical lab technicians is expected to keep on increasing in the next few years due to the need to fulfill the lab analysis requirements at hospitals and medical facilities.

What is medical laboratory science?

Medical laboratory science provides clues that are key in the diagnosis and treatment of disease or injury, and laboratory professionals are the detectives of the health care world. They provide clues that are key in the diagnosis and treatment of disease or injury and assist in the maintenance of healthy lifestyles. Clues to solving the mysteries of diseases are found in our own bodies. Laboratory tests monitor the composition of our blood, urine, and other body fluids and tissues for early warning signs of disease. Laboratory professionals perform tests that are crucial to our health and well-being. Although they spend less time with patients than physicians and nurses, laboratory scientists are just as dedicated to patients’ health. As vital members of the health care team, they play a critical role in collecting the information needed to give the best care to an ill or injured patient. They find great satisfaction in their work, knowing that they are helping others and are saving lives.

It is the medical laboratory scientist, not the nurse or physician, who measures blood cholesterol and blood sugar, tests for anemia, checks the urine for protein, identifies strep throat bacteria, prepares blood for transfusion, and even determines if a hit and run driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Medical laboratory professionals work in many settings: hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, research facilities, public health centers, the Armed Forces, veterinary offices, colleges, business, and industry. Academic achievements and technical ability set the level for responsibility one reaches in medical laboratory science.

Consider focusing your interest in biology or chemistry into this more specific and marketable major. If you enjoy the challenges and rewards of medicine and science, this is the profession for you!

Medical Laboratory Scientist [Job Responsibilities]

Using cutting-edge biomedical instrumentation and technology, medical laboratory professionals play a pivotal role in a range of laboratory settings, performing job duties that can include:

  • Examining and analyzing body fluids, tissues and cells
  • Identifying potentially harmful microorganisms
  • Analyzing the chemical makeup of body fluids
  • Testing blood for drug levels to measure the efficacy of particular treatments
  • Evaluating test results for accuracy
  • Helping interpret test results for physicians
  • Operating, maintaining and repairing clinical instruments
  • Using complex computer systems for data entry, retrieval and analysis
  • Ensuring quality control throughout the lab
  • Supervising inventory
  • Teaching proper laboratory practices to students and healthcare personnel

According to the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASLCS):

  • Medical laboratory scientists use sophisticated biomedical instrumentation and technology, computers and methods requiring manual dexterity to perform laboratory testing on blood and body fluids.
  • Laboratory testing encompasses such disciplines as clinical chemistry, hematology, immunology, immunohematology, microbiology and molecular biology.
  • MLS professionals generate accurate laboratory data needed to aid in detecting cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, infectious mononucleosis and identification of bacteria or viruses that cause infections, as well as in detecting drugs of abuse.
  • Medical lab scientists also monitor testing quality and consult with other members of the healthcare team.

In the medical laboratory setting, MLS professionals perform skilled testing and diagnostics that are vital to patient diagnosis and treatment, as well as disease management and intervention. In a wider sense, medical laboratory scientist professionals also provide helpful analyses in a variety of roles, including forensics, pharmaceuticals or product research and development.

How to Become a Medical Laboratory Scientist

The field of medical laboratory science is “critically important in patient care,” according to Kim Collison, director of laboratory services at Spectrum Advanced Technology Laboratory in Grand Rapids, Mich., “because the laboratory is the area that helps with the diagnosis, treatment options and patient outcomes — and without laboratory data there are a lot of questions that would go unanswered.” Speaking in a medical laboratory science careers video, Collison noted that the field offers multiple options and outstanding career possibilities.

Due to the significant worker shortage, recruitment is ongoing throughout the medical laboratory science industry field and job security is strong. “Do you love science? Does the human body fascinate you?” These are questions asked of prospective medical laboratory scientists in an ASCLS recruitment video in which medical lab scientists talk about why they love their career. Bottom line: “We have fun, we love what we’re doing and we help people,” says David Keren, medical director of clinical pathology at the University of Michigan.

Thanks to the high demand for qualified medical lab scientists across the country, there has never been a better time to earn your MLS degree. The University of Cincinnati offers a 100% online, NAACLS-accredited bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Science, specifically designed for working technicians in the field. With your degree, you will be equipped to offer higher levels of care to patient populations, open the door to new career opportunities and achieve a better quality of life for you and your family.

Medical Lab Scientists: The ‘Hidden Profession’ That Saves Lives

The identification, diagnosis and treatment of disease require a skilled detective, someone who knows what clues to look for and can communicate their findings to provide insight on the best course of action. Medical lab scientists exist as the detectives of the healthcare field. With a broad base of expertise — chemistry, hematology, microbiology and more — they are often the first people to spot cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening conditions.  

Medical lab scientists are among the most integral parts of healthcare teams. They analyze biological specimens — from cells to blood and other bodily fluids — and their analysis can help guide doctors’ decisions. Experts estimate that medical lab science professionals provide up to 70% of patients’ laboratory testing to physicians to make accurate diagnoses and treatment plans. 

Despite occupying such an important part of the diagnostic and treatment process, lab professionals are considered to be among the most unrecognized healthcare workers — a hidden profession. Though they may not engage in face-to-face communication with patients like other healthcare professionals, medical lab scientists are vital, and they continue to be highly sought after in the field. 

A Rewarding Career With a Huge Impact on Patients’ Lives

Although medical lab science professionals may not have the patient-facing roles that doctors and nurses do, their work is not any less rewarding or impactful. They play a vital role in early disease detection and prevention and can be integral in treating certain trauma cases as well. This is particularly true in the case of medical lab scientists who work in blood banks, which is where Cavnar spent part of her career. 

“My very first day in the blood bank, we had a GI bleed and the patient, by the end of the day, used over 100 blood products — and he survived. And that was amazing,” she said. “We don’t generally get a lot of recognition, but I remember the doctors bought us a really nice box of chocolates and we were thrilled — but we were mostly thrilled that he lived.”

The role that medical lab scientists play in healthcare extends to how doctors read and interpret data. Specifically, by providing doctors with detailed analysis of test results, scientists can lay the groundwork for decisions regarding courses of treatment, diagnoses and cross-matching blood transfusions. These interactions can have a significant impact on the everyday lives of patients. For example, the testing conducted by scientists can be used to help diabetes patients see how they’re managing their condition and what courses of treatment have been effective. It also impacts general health and lifestyle decisions patients might make after their annual physical.

The fight against COVID-19 proved how instrumental medical lab scientists are. Early on, they were on the frontlines ensuring that testing was done quickly and accurately. This critical diagnostic role shone a light on lab scientists and how they work to save lives. In this case, by identifying positive cases, lab scientists helped doctors begin treatment quickly, start effective contact tracing and take the first step in reducing the spread.

Medical lab scientists are also at the forefront of early diagnoses. By identifying cancer and other diseases early, lab scientists provide patients with more time to begin treatment, make lifestyle changes and more effectively and proactively combat their illnesses.

“They want to be able to catch anything early, like if someone was showing a shift toward leukemia,” Cavnar said. “Yearly appointments with your physician are really important. You get your cholesterol checked, you get your lipids, you get your liver panel. Even a small bump in numbers can sometimes be indicative of ‘maybe I should change the way I’m eating or drinking or exercising.’” 

Those with an MLS degree can work in a variety of roles. Although some may choose to work primarily in the lab setting, they can also use their MLS degree on the path to administrative roles and, depending on the area of focus, have the opportunity to work in many areas of healthcare and medicine including microbiology, hematology, epidemiology and cancer research.

“I’ve had students work at biotech companies or forensics, and it can set you up to go even further in the field,” Cavnar said. She also points out that scientists who have an MLS degree often go on to pursue a master’s in public health and other advanced degrees.

Technology Shaping the Future of Healthcare

Like any scientific practice, lab science is an ever-evolving field. A popular career track among MLS professionals is working to research, develop and manufacture advancements in the latest instruments. Recent advancements in the field include the development of more sophisticated instruments that can diagnose diseases in a much more timely fashion. 

For example, if someone had an infection and doctors wanted to know whether it was resistant to certain drugs or treatments, it used to take days, or even a week, to figure out. Now, thanks to advancements in instrumentation it can be done in 24 hours. The same is true for recent changes to the way tuberculosis is diagnosed. Previously it took weeks for organisms to grow to identify the disease, but now it can be done at a molecular level. Other recent advancements include:

  • Machine learning. Uses of machine learning include the quality review of lab results and disease or outcome prediction.
  • 3D printing. The expanded use of 3D printing has led to the development of custom 3D-printed equipment.
  • Expanded genome screening. A greater understanding of patients’ genetic makeup offers greater insight into diagnoses and treatment.

One of the characteristics that make lab professionals successful is how they want to understand everything there is to know about the newest technology, according to Cavnar.

“One of the things that’s a good trait in medical laboratory scientists is they embrace that advancement, and they want to understand those instruments and the technology — it just makes our lives easier,” she said. 

Shape Patient Outcomes With an MLS Degree

There are different paths one can take to a medical lab science degree, but Cavnar says she took one of the most common ones. She was a biology major who was not interested in pursuing medical school or becoming a doctor. She says that in her work at UWF, she tends to see a lot of biology students who are unsure how they want to put their degree to work. Making the decision to pursue a career in medical lab science is a good choice; she says her department has close to a 100% job placement rate. 

“We cannot graduate enough students to satisfy even local hospitals,” she said. “I get emails daily begging us for our graduates.”

The numbers back up Cavnar’s experience. According to the American Society for Microbiology, employment in healthcare is expected to grow by 19% from 2014 to 2024 — which accounts for about 2.3 million new jobs.

Making the jump from a medical lab technician to a medical lab scientist is also a popular career track. In addition to being more intimately involved with analysis and diagnoses, there can be quite a big difference between pay and advancement opportunities between an MLT and an MLS. 

“It’s hard to pin down an exact number, but the difference in salary between MLT and MLS is at least $10,000 a year,” Cavnar said. “If you want to work as a lab manager or lab supervisor, a bachelor’s degree is something that will help you with that.”

Successful lab scientists possess a broad range of characteristics. They need to have an innate curiosity, a strong desire to help people, a zeal for solving problems and the ability to stay cool under pressure. They also need to be incredibly organized and detail-oriented, Cavnar says.

“It’s meticulousness. It’s paying attention to details,” she said. “You want to be able to catch things on patients.” She added that scientists have to be able to roll with the punches and handle the unexpected, especially scientists who work in high-pressure fields like blood banking.

The University of West Florida’s online Medical Lab Technician to Medical Lab Scientist (MLT to MLS) bachelor’s degree program is ideal for meticulous lab professionals who are looking to take the next step in their careers. With a self-paced, fully online format, students can complete their degrees around their schedules. 

The rigorous curriculum is taught by faculty that are highly experienced in the field and touches on the full range of lab tests ranging from blood bank, hematology and molecular diagnostics to clinical chemistry, diagnostic microbiology and clinical immunology

The Role of Medical Laboratory Science in Health Care

The clinical laboratory is the heart of any hospital or health care system and it accounts for over 70% of medical diagnoses and decisions made by physicians annually. Research laboratory testing permits for early detection and diagnosing of diseases, that results in additional personalized treatment plans for every patient. The clinical research laboratory is concerned with the development of patient quality of care; serving to attain long-term medical prices. The clinical research laboratory science (CLS) has in-depth coaching in the lab. Medication, however, their contribution to the whole health care team caring for a patient is often underestimated and not well-understood.

Laboratory tests vary from the “essential tests” like a chemical analysis or complete blood count (CBC) to the “terribly advanced” like the genetic testing to diagnose inheritable diseases. The foremost departments found in clinical research laboratory include medicine, chemistry, biological science, coagulation, blood bank, medical science or medical specialty, and pharmacology. Larger hospitals or health systems have been found to be able to carry out their testing in-house whereas smaller health care facilities and research laboratories could use a reference lab. to perform their testing which can be attributed to the complexity involved.

This complex process begins from the practitioner ordering the research laboratory check on a specimen (blood, urine, stool, tissue, body fluid), and it been received within the research laboratory. Patient identifiers (name, date of birth, hospital ID number) are noted to be an extremely important data needed for clarity and accuracy in every busy research lab that receive lots of specimens daily. Once these data are confirmed and the specimen is suitable for the check ordered, it goes to into the department that runs the requested test.

A medical laboratory scientist (MLS), additionally and historically brought up as a clinical laboratory scientist (CLS) or a medical technologist (MT) is a healthcare professional who performs chemical, hematological, immunologic, histopathological, cytopathological, microscopic and bacteriological diagnostic analysis on body fluids such as blood, urine, sputum, stool, neural structure fluid (CSF), serous membrane fluid and synovial fluid, as different specimens. Medical laboratory scientists work in clinical laboratories at hospitals, reference labs, biotechnology labs and non-clinical industrial labs. Those who add non-clinical industrial labs square measure to their works, are usually brought up as biomedical laboratory technologists (BLT) around the globe. Generally, the role of a Medical Laboratory Scientist is to supply correct laboratory reports and finished products in a timely manner.

Clinical laboratories offer data and services that contribute to maximising the effective delivery of care in today’s advanced health care system by reassuring that the right laboratory investigation is performed on the appropriate person, at the appropriate time, manufacturing correct investigation reports that guides suppliers of specimen – usually health care workers – to form the proper diagnostic and therapeutic selections, making use of the proper level of health care resources. Laboratory data permits physicians and different tending professionals to form acceptable evidence-based diagnostic or therapeutic selections for his or her patients. Clinical laboratory services pick the foremost, value effective and least invasive means to supply the target data employed in clinical decision-making. Also, it has a right-away impact on several aspects of patient care including, however not restricted to, length of admission period, patient’s safety, resource utilization, and client’s satisfaction.

While technology continues to boost the productivity of today’s laboratories, new technologies, new diseases, and unwellness strains still drive the necessity for additional tests and testing. Changes within the world, like bio-terrorism and also the rate at which diseases unfold globally, drive the necessity for fast diagnosing. Thus, the skilled clinical laboratory scientist is an imperative partner in providing patient care, and creating direct enhancements within the lives of patients, within the maintenance of the public’s health, and within the effectiveness of individual health care workers.

While technology continues to boost the productivity of today’s laboratories, new technologies, new diseases, and unwellness strains still drive the necessity for additional tests and testing. Changes within the world, like bio-terrorism and also the rate at which diseases unfold globally, drive the necessity for fast diagnosing. Thus, the skilled clinical laboratory scientist is an imperative partner in providing patient care, and creating direct enhancements within the lives of patients, within the maintenance of the public’s health, and within the effectiveness of individual health care workers.

Tests, usually classified as screening or diagnostic are essential components of protocols accustomed to diagnose and manage specific diseases and conditions. While testing models (that is, Algorithmic), designed with clinicians, have accustomed guide containing diagnostic methods to get the timely relevant for a given patient, hence, shortening the time to diagnose, the length of keep and improve utilization of laboratory services. These models assist in fast identification of unwellness, assessment of severity of unwellness, creation of a therapeutic set up, management and monitoring of treatment outcomes. The more economic and human friendly the testing protocol, the shorter the length of inmate keep or patient encounter, the quicker the implementation of medical aid, and also the lower the cost and general value of care.Likewise, the ability of a medical practitioner or different patient care giver to systematically create timely and evidence-based choices pertaining to patients’ care that ends in a modification or total change in management is directly associated with the provision of correct, reliable and timely laboratory testing and coverage of results. some clinical examples that illustrate the laboratory professional’s ability to be the first enabler of therapeutic effectuality include monitoring the effectiveness of duct nutritionary treatment, effectiveness of cancer medical aid, correct dosing of medication, harmful effects of therapeutic medicine, determining the causes of infection, confirming effective antibiotic medical aid while offering periodic call support.

Clinical laboratory services as a unit offers a significant element of making certain optimum outcomes for all patients accessing health care, whether it is for straightforward things/issues or complex forms such as life threatening situations and end-of-life care because patients’ safety and impacting patient outcome is an important aspect of the services rendered. Laboratory professionals impact patient safety by providing pre-surgical or pre-procedural testing that determines the present ability of the patient to bear those treatments. Patient outcomes are also influenced by providing the required information for clinicians to observe the effectiveness of current treatments and therapies. These outcomes can even be measured by however well chronic sicknesses are well managed. For example, dieticians admit laboratory support to observe the semipermanent effectiveness of their home observation systems. Laboratory professionals further provide very important information to help clinicians create choices that have an effect on quality of life for his or her patients.

Other ground breaking physical tests and innovation, from simple lipid profile checks to deciding the correct antibiotics necessary for killing off a very resistant strain of microorganism just like the penicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus are works attributed to the scientists globally across various international bodies e.g. the United Nations agency. These internationally recognized scientists test, interpret and write the full important reports needed and used by doctors globally to diagnose disease accurately and treat patients with success. Once a treatment scheme is gotten and introduced, the physicians yet again depend on the accuracy of the targeted knowledge ceaselessly provided by medical lab. professionals to observe the condition of the patient. Doctors wouldn’t be ready to save as several lives as they are doing nowadays if the scientists didn’t play the role and up to the task. In this regard, they are the units that save infinite lives daily and are still going principally unobserved by those they helped to avoid wasting.

Furthermore, they consistently engage in testing for high risk communicable conditions including viral hemorrhagic diseases, contagious diseases, vertebrate flu, swine flu, influenza, and other contagious respiratory disease, Hodgkin disease and so on to search out higher vaccines and cures at different levels of specialised disease analysis institutes such as Center for disease control and management and Prevention agency (CDC), federal government agencies, The Division of disease Control (DCDC) and many more. Although, the overall public attributes the findings and successes of those analysis to the doctors alone, but in truth, they’re principally the results of combined work done by medical laboratory scientists. The Oral Rabies Vaccination Program in Texas remains a primary example of such a triumphant program, that managed to eliminate a sort of Rabies sometimes narrowed from animals like coyotes and foxes.

If there was ever an associate underappreciated in the field of health aid, in spite of getting a promising career with prospects and enjoying the significant role of saving lives daily, then that will be the medical laboratory scientist. An Associate MLS (medical laboratory scientist) is the skilled one that produces the medical reports doctors everywhere on the planet rely on to diagnose myriads of health conditions. They are conjointly those in international decision making bodies – CDC and United Nations agency – playing an utmost role in procuring vaccines and cures for critical epidemics. Therefore, the work done by the clinical workforce is associated essentially to the necessary “planet of bioscience” and international body of the important MLS professionals within the field.

5 Reasons to Become a Medical Lab Technician

A career as a medical lab technician has many unique benefits. Here are five reasons why a medical lab technology career might be a great choice for you.

1. Workplace Flexibility

Medical lab techs work in a wide range of facilities, including hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, laboratories and more. You have the option to work in a setting you enjoy most. Depending on the organization you choose, you may be able to select a schedule that fits your needs, working days, nights or even weekends.

2. “Behind-the-Scenes” Work

Not every healthcare career requires direct patient care. Although they support medical professionals, medical lab techs complete their work behind-the-scenes. In fact, you may not come into contact with patients at all.

3. Cross Between Science, Tech and Healthcare

Medical lab technicians use high tech equipment daily to test samples of the human body for diagnosis. For individuals who love science, technology and healthcare, a medical lab tech career is a perfect mix of all three fields.

4. Fast Entry Into the Workforce

Entering the workforce as a medical lab technician is pretty quick. Through our Medical Laboratory Technician program, you can be ready for employment in as little as two years.

5. Employment Growth

Medical lab tech careers are thriving across the country. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of these technicians is projected to grow by 11% between now and 2028, much faster than average. This demand makes finding the perfect job easier for you.

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