The current diagnosis and treatment of disease usually involves the coordinated efforts of a medical team -- physician, pathologist, clinical laboratory scientist, nurse, and other health personnel. The role of the medical laboratory scientist in this team is to assist the physician by performing a variety of increasingly important and complex laboratory tests. The five major divisions in the work are hematology, blood banking (immunohematology), clincal chemistry, microbiology, and urinalysis.
Medical laboratory scientists working in hematology analyze the cellular elements of the blood and bone marrow, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. They also perform blood coagulation tests and draw blood from patients (including newborns).
Medical laboratory scientists working in blood banking provide compatible blood components for transfusion including red blood cells, platelets and plasma. Using serologic techniques, they test for specific antigens on donor's red blood cells, and identify atypical antibodies present in recipient's sera.
In clinical chemistry, medical laboratory scientists use automated instrumentation to determine the presence of many different compounds in serum, plasma, spinal fluid and urine. Typical tests include those for electrolytes, blood gases, cholesterol, enzymes and hormones.
Medical laboratory scientists working in microbiology isolate pathogenic bacteria, fungi and viruses from a variety of specimens including blood, sputum, feces, vaginal exudates and urine. After pathogenic bacteria are isolated, they are identified to the species level and tested for their susceptibility to antimicrobial agents. Increasingly, a variety of molecular techniques are being used in the identification process. Serologic tests may be carried out to determine if the patient has made an antibody response to a particular pathogen. Examination of stool specimens for the presence of ova and parasites is also performed in the microbiology department.
Medical laboratory scientists examine urine specimens for the presence of biochemical compounds and a variety of formed elements such as red blood cells, white blood cells, bacteria and casts.
A career in MLS offers job opportunities in a variety of settings, including hospital and independent laboratories, clinics, business and industry, research, public health and education. A medical laboratory scientist who gains experience in one special area of the laboratory has the opportunity to advance to a specialist level. Experienced medical laboratory scientists also have opportunities to advance in laboratory management and administration. The training received in MLS is also an excellent foundation for further studies in medicine, dentistry and other scientific disciplines.