Medical laboratory scientists (MLS) or clinical laboratory scientists play an important role in saving lives every day by assisting with patient diagnosis and treatment. In the current complex healthcare system, these technicians ensure that the correct test is performed on the right person, at the right time. Physicians and other healthcare professionals make appropriate evidence-based diagnostic or therapeutic decisions for their patients, based on the laboratory information.

A 2008 report in the Annals of Clinical Biochemistry highlight the fact that the junior doctors surveyed were more confident regarding their knowledge of when to request tests than in their ability to interpret the test results. Though lab scientists are not often personally involved with patients, they play a crucial role in the process of providing personalized care. Their services directly impact all aspects of patient care including the length of stay, patient safety, resource utilization, as well as customer satisfaction. They also interact with physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare practitioners to explain the test results and to answer questions about laboratory tests and testing, etc.

The profession of the medical laboratory scientist is unique – these professionals are the ones who determine the safest, most useful, least costly and time-efficient diagnostic tests to be used for your health care. Their service benefits the patients because they are actively involved in the research to bring the best that science and technology can offer into the field of diagnostics.

Working Silently in the Background

The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) has developed a short video to highlight the importance of laboratory professionals in patient care. This 12 minute video is about a young boy, who was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia (M3), and his family’s thoughts, feelings and their experience. Laboratorians, the hematopathologist and the hematology/oncology physician also figure in this video.

Medical Laboratory Scientists – Scope of Work

The career of MLS is for candidates with a strong interest in science and welcome challenge and responsibility. It is not for the weak hearted, because you may have to work well under pressure. The job requires you to be self motivated and have an inclination towards problem solving. In addition, it demands minute attention to detail and a determination to find the right answer.

Specialty areas of laboratory medicine include clinical chemistry, hematology, transfusion services, and clinical immunology among others. These professionals perform a full range of laboratory tests ranging from simple blood screens to more complex tests to detect diseases like cancer, coronary artery disease and diabetes. Professional duties of MLS include – operating computerized instruments, identifying abnormal cells, assuring safe transfusion of blood products, culturing and identifying bacteria and viruses, correlating test results with patient’s condition, selecting and evaluating lab equipment, and monitoring the quality of testing.

New advancements in lab technology are creating more challenges and job opportunities for clinical laboratory science professionals.