Home /  What is a Medial Laboratory Scientist?
Wednesday, June 14, 2023

What is a Medial Laboratory Scientist?


Bringing awareness to these behind-the-scenes medical professionals

What is a medical laboratory scientist? These professionals have gone by several different names over the years, initially referred to as medical technologists, then later called clinical laboratory scientists. In recent years, they underwent a new name change to medical laboratory scientists, which better depicts what these health care professionals do. Medical laboratory scientists analyze blood and other body fluids in the clinical laboratory. The results from these tests are relayed to clinicians, nurses and other health care professionals who have direct contact with the patient. Over 70% of medical decisions are based on laboratory test results. Without accurate laboratory results, clinicians may be unable to diagnose and treat patients properly. Medical laboratory science has often been referred to as “the hidden profession” because these professionals are not seen on the front lines providing hands-on patient care.

There are four main areas in the clinical laboratory: hematology, chemistry, microbiology and immunohematology. Each of these areas is very specialized for the laboratory test they perform. Most licensed, certified medical laboratory scientists hold a baccalaureate degree and are trained to work in all areas of the laboratory.

Hematology is the study of blood, blood morphology and blood diseases. In the hematology section of the laboratory, an MLS counts and classifies cells into white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. If a clinician thinks the patient may have leukemia, anemia or other hematologic disorder, this section of the laboratory provides those answers. Coagulation testing is often performed in the hematology laboratory, which involves the study of blood clotting. Suppose a patient has suffered a stroke and may need to take “blood thinner” medication. Coagulation testing helps to ensure that the patient is receiving the proper dose of the medication.

The chemistry section of the laboratory performs a wide variety of tests. Some of the clinical chemistry tests analyzed in this area of the laboratory include lipid profiles, iron profiles, glucose, liver and kidney function, heart enzymes, electrolytes, hormones and toxicology. Need to know if a patient had a heart attack or is dehydrated? Medical laboratory scientists can find out.

The clinical microbiology department analyzes patient specimens for various microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, mycobacteria, parasites and viruses. The MLS can stain and culture specimens from anywhere in the body, including blood, body fluids, wounds and respiratory specimens, to name a few. They are trained to determine what microorganism is causing illness and determine the appropriate antimicrobials for treatment. Much of the microbiology or virology laboratory encompasses molecular testing, especially for viral testing such as hepatitis, HIV, coronavirus and other respiratory viruses.

The immunohematology department, also called transfusion services or blood bank, is the section of the laboratory responsible for providing blood and blood components for transfusions. Testing is performed on a patient’s blood to verify that the blood units or components being transfused are compatible with the patient. A patient receiving as little as 5ml of the wrong blood type could result in death. There are many checks put in place to ensure this does not happen.

LSU Health Shreveport School of Allied Health Professions has a NAACLSaccredited (National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science) Medical Laboratory Science program. Students that complete the program earn a Bachelor of Science in medical laboratory science. At LSU Health Shreveport, students may be accepted to the program three times a year: in the fall, spring or summer semesters. The standard education track consists of 65 hours of prerequisite courses that can be taken at any regionally accredited U.S. college or university, with an additional 55 hours of professional courses that are completed at LSU Health Shreveport School of Allied Health Professions. Our unique program pairs academic and clinical experience to prepare graduates for a vast array of exciting career options. Graduating from our NAACLS-accredited program allows students to take the most desirable national certification exam, the Board of Certification of the American Society of Clinical Pathology. Our graduating students have a 100% pass rate for this exam and a 100% employment rate.

Our program is always looking for individuals with a passion for science, solving puzzles and enjoying hands-on lab work. We currently face a nationwide shortage of laboratory professionals, and our graduates have no problem finding jobs in Louisiana and elsewhere. The Medical Laboratory Science faculty at LSU Health Shreveport School of Allied Health get graduates prepared and ready for the laboratory workforce.

Krystal Pearce, MHS, MLS, is a clinical assistant professor of medical laboratory sciences at LSU Health Shreveport School of Allied Health Professions. Stephanie Blackburn, EdD, MLS, is the program director and clinical assistant professor of medical laboratory sciences at LSU Health Shreveport School of Allied Health Professions.


The Forum News