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What is a Medical Laboratory Scientist?


March 22, 2022

A medical laboratory scientist provides diagnostic service to the providers that treat the patient, and to the healthcare team that works for you. While many are unaware of the medical laboratory science profession, nearly everyone has had an encounter with a medical laboratory scientist.

What does a medical laboratory scientist do?

All of your lab testing is performed by medical laboratory scientists. We have all likely had blood work drawn, maybe a culture on a wound, or even a simple urine drug test for pre-employment. While the phlebotomist often collects the samples and ensures that samples are properly labeled, collected with the proper tube or sterile conditions, and delivered to the correct department; it is the medical laboratory scientist who will perform the studies. Once the lab testing is completed and results are obtained, the medical laboratory scientist provides your healthcare team with timely, accurate results.

Why are medical laboratory scientists important?

Medical laboratory scientists help ensure proper treatment is provided by interacting with healthcare team members including:

Physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners

These are the primary ordering providers that request laboratory tests. As a patient, these orders typically come from the primary clinic, emergency rooms, and even hospitalists providing care during inpatient encounters.

Nurses

Nurses have set orders that are provided by the physicians. Often, orders will list specific instructions to increase, decrease, or change a treatment based on laboratory results. Nurses will often reach out to the lab to request a STAT result—which means immediately or without delay—in order to make critical adjustments for treatment.

Pharmacists

A female medical laboratory scientist looks into a microscope.Often patients will receive certain medications that require monitoring of both the medication level and enzymes that are present in the patient’s blood. This enables the pharmacist and physician to determine whether the patient is responding favorably to the treatment. Pharmacists are also in contact with medical laboratory scientists when monitoring certain organisms for antibiotic resistance. Emergence of drug resistant microorganisms is a large source of communication with pharmacists and medical laboratory scientists over the last decade.

Obstetricians, nurse practitioners, midwives and nurses

From prenatal care to the birth process, medical laboratory scientists play an integral role in maternal and infant care. Blood work is performed during the prenatal process, as well as cultures, and fluid analysis is done to ensure a healthy mother and child. The results can provide medical providers with critical information to determine the overall health and wellness of the expectant mother, the fetus, as well as communicate the potential for genetic anomalies that may arise.

Operating room personnel, critical and intensive care units

Critical information is often needed during acute procedures or conditions. The medical laboratory scientist is often pushed to rapidly perform routine testing STAT. One common need that arises from the operating room and critical care units is the need for blood typing and crossmatches. The hospital blood bank is staffed with highly trained medical laboratory scientists that perform testing to guarantee that the blood units are compatible with the patient’s blood type and other antigens and antibodies that they possess.

Radiology

Some procedures in radiology require the administration of dyes for contrast. In order to ensure safe administration of the contrast, oftentimes the radiology technologists will request medical laboratory services prior to administering certain contrast or dyes.

Oncology and nuclear medicine

Medical laboratory scientists often perform testing on oncology patients as well as assist in certain procedures during diagnosis such as bone marrow biopsy. Oncologists often use molecular testing, and due to this, the training of the medical laboratory scientist was adjusted to incorporate more genetic and molecular test education to compensate for the advancements.

Dialysis

Dialysis patients require constant monitoring to determine the effectiveness of the dialysis procedure. Medical laboratory scientists provide results and communicate with the care team in order to provide optimal care.

Biomedical team

Hospital systems often employ a biomedical team to provide constant monitoring over equipment and services needed for the entire facility. One critical duty that this team oversees is the sterile conditions of equipment, water and other items involved in patient care. The samples are submitted to the laboratory, and medical laboratory scientists perform cultures and other testing needed to ensure safe patient care.

How do I become a medical laboratory scientist?

PCOM offers two pathways to pursue a career in medical laboratory science. Our pre-professional master of science program is designed for students who possess a bachelor of science degree in a biologic or chemical science with appropriate prerequisite courses. The entirely online post-professional master’s program focuses on higher level learning for those already certified by either ASCP or AMT and who possess a bachelor’s degree in medical or clinical laboratory science from a National Accreditation Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)-accredited program. For more information, complete our request for information form or begin your application today.

Medical laboratory scientists work with your healthcare team to ensure accurate test results and adequate treatment for patients.

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