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Where Do Medical Laboratory Scientists Work?

April 29, 2022

While many people may think medical laboratory scientists work solely in hospitals and outpatient laboratories, there are actually a wide array of job opportunities for people with a master’s degree in medical laboratory science.

Jay S. Feldstein, DO ‘81, president and chief executive officer of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), and Karen Giddens, MLS(ASCP), director of PCOM’s Master of Science in Medical Laboratory Science program, recently discussed the role of medical laboratory scientists, how to become a medical laboratory scientist and where these scientists may be employed during a recent episode of the PCOM Perspectives podcast.

Where Do Medical Laboratory Scientists Work?

Jobs for medical laboratory scientists are varied and not limited to hospitals and laboratories.According to Giddens, while most people do think of a hospital laboratory when imagining the work environment for a medical laboratory scientist, there are many more tests than most hospital laboratories are equipped to run. These tests must be conducted in offsite labs—commonly known as reference laboratories—that offer specialty testing. These reference laboratories employ medical laboratory scientists as do crime labs, toxicology labs, DNA labs, water treatment facilities and even manufacturing and food packaging facilities.

Medical laboratory scientists may also be employed in other clinical settings or even in academia. A practicing medical laboratory scientist for more than 20 years, Giddens has a wide variety of clinical and academic experience including working as a laboratory director of the Southern Interventional Pain Center, a pain management practice with locations in Georgia and Florida, and as a medical technologist at Colquitt Regional Medical Center in Moultrie, Georgia. In addition to her current role at PCOM, she has prior academic experience in which she applied her skills and knowledge in medical laboratory science as an adjunct professor at North Georgia Community College and as an assistant professor and director of the medical laboratory science program at Thomas University.

Though career opportunities exist outside of hospitals, Feldstein—who is board certified in emergency medicine and previously worked as an emergency room physician— emphasized the important role medical laboratory scientists play on a hospital healthcare team.

“People need to understand that physicians make a physical diagnosis based on the history and physical exam, but a lot of times you are very dependent upon the lab tests for your diagnosis and treatment,” Feldstein explained.

And in the emergency room, he added, time is of the essence.

“We’re the highest priority, we want it done quickly and we need to have confidence that the results we’re getting are accurate,” he said. “Laboratory scientists are as integral a part as any member of the healthcare team because inaccurate laboratory results can result in life or death situations from not only a diagnostic, but a treatment standpoint.”

According to Giddens, emergency room physicians are not the only healthcare providers who rely upon medical laboratory scientists for accurate and timely test results.

“Typically our orders are derived from physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, but we do interact with nearly every member of the healthcare team during that process,” she said.

In addition to interacting with nurses—who are often the primary point of contact—medical laboratory scientists also interact with pharmacists while monitoring certain medication levels, radiology technicians prior to administering certain contrast materials, operating room staff during surgery cases, as well as providers in specialty care areas including oncology, dialysis, pulmonology and environmental services.

The Medical Laboratory Science Degree Program at PCOM

The Master of Science in Medical Laboratory Science program is designed for students who want to work as medical technologists and those who are working in the field and want to add to their credentials.

PCOM offers a master's degree in medica laboratory science.The program offers a pre-professional and post-professional option.

“The pre-professional track is designed for students wanting to enter the medical laboratory science profession for the first time” Giddens explained. “This is designed for someone who wants to be able to gain their certification and be eligible to work in hospitals and reference laboratories.”

The ideal student for the pre-professional program is one who holds a bachelor's degree in a biologic or chemical science has completed prerequisite coursework.

“These students will take courses during the first year which are hybrid, that is having an online didactic component coupled with once-a-month campus labs,” Giddens added.

The post-professional track is designed for students who hold a degree from a NACCLS-accredited program in medical or clinical laboratory science and are certified by ASCP or AMT.

“These individuals would be interested in furthering their education to obtain positions such as supervisory, leadership or management roles,” Giddens said.

Both programs prepare students for a rewarding and exciting career in medical laboratory science.

“Laboratory science is a large part of medical diagnosis and treatment,” Feldstein said. “They are kind of the unsung heroes who are behind the scenes of healthcare and a very important part of the whole healthcare system.”

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