#Labweek April 22-29 – Celebrating our Medical Laboratory Professionals

Global Service Resources celebrates the contributions made by Medical Laboratory Professionals in the advancement of medicine and the treatment of all patients worldwide. Medical Lab Professionals are often the unsung heroes of the hospitals – rarely do you come in contact with them as opposed to doctors, nurses, and various technicians. However, Medical Lab Professionals perform some of the most crucial work in the diagnosing of diseases through their analyzing of samples and reports generated from data they gather. Furthermore, the safe handling and disposal of samples as well as the cleaning and maintenance of laboratory equipment are managed by various Medical Laboratory Professionals. It is hard to imagine modern medicine without the contributions of these skilled workers.

Types of Medical Laboratory Professionals
Medical Laboratory Professionals are broken down by duty, rank, and specialization of function typically on how they handle or prepare samples. We’ll cover a few of the more fundamental roles in this section to give you an idea of just how vast this field is.

Did you know that Pathologists are considered Medical Laboratory Professionals?
Pathologists are medical doctors who diagnose and characterize disease by examining a patient’s tissues, blood, and other body fluids. They are specially trained to interpret biopsy results, Pap tests, and other biological samples. Sometimes called a ‘doctor’s doctor’, pathologists work with primary care physicians as well as specialists, and use laboratory testing to identify or rule out diseases and conditions. A laboratory may employ one or more pathologists depending on the requirements of the lab.

Pathologists work in two broad areas:

  • Anatomic pathology is the examination of the physical appearance and microscopic structure of tissues. Anatomic pathologists look at biopsies and organs removed at surgery (surgical pathology) as well as cells that are collected from brushings or body fluids (cytopathology). They also perform autopsies to investigate the cause of death (autopsy/forensic pathology).Some pathologists sub-specialize based on organ systems: neuropathologists (nerves/brain), renal pathologists (kidney), hematopathologists (blood and bone marrow), and dermatopathologists (skin).
  • Clinical pathology deals with the measurement of chemical constituents of blood and other body fluids (clinical chemistry), analysis of blood cells (hematology), identification of microbes (microbiology/parasitology/mycology), and the collection, preparation and use of blood for transfusion (transfusion medicine). Clinical pathologists direct the laboratories that perform these tests and provide consultation to other doctors on the significance of test results.

Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS), Medical Technologist (MT), Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS)
These laboratory professionals are responsible for performing routine as well as highly specialized tests to diagnose and/or aid in the treatment of disease, troubleshooting (preventing and solving problems with results, specimens, or instruments), and communicating test results to the pathologist or treating health practitioner. They may examine blood or body fluid specimens under the microscope for bacteria, parasites, fungus, or cells that might indicate cancer or other diseases. They perform quality control checks, evaluate new instruments, and implement new test procedures. Scientists/Technologists also may assume managerial roles, including supervising laboratory personnel as the general and/or technical supervisor.

Many Scientists/Technologists specialize in one particular area, such as in hematology, clinical chemistry, immunology, molecular pathology, cytogenetics, microbiology, or transfusion medicine. Scientists/Technologists have a bachelor’s degree in clinical/medical laboratory science or the life sciences that included three or four years of academic course work and one year of clinical experience. Most labs require that they be certified to demonstrate their competence to conduct their job functions. Scientists/Technologists are certified by organizations such as the American Medical Technologists (AMT), the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification (BOC), or the National Registry of Microbiologists (NRM). Some states require Scientists/Technologists to obtain a license from the Department of Health or the Board of Education.

Roles & Responsibilities in the Lab
Laboratory Director Doctoral degree (e.g., MD or PhD); sometimes a medical laboratory scientist

Board certification recommended

Directs and manages all lab operations and ensures quality patient care; Interprets test results, with consulting pathologist
Technical Supervisor Doctoral degree (e.g., MD or PhD); may be Master’s or bachelor’s degree with experience

Board certification recommended

May be the same person as the lab director

Provides oversight of technical and scientific functions of the lab
General Supervisor May be the same person as the lab director or technical supervisor

Depending on lab and experience, MLS/MT or MLT may qualify

Provides oversight of day-to-day functions of the lab
Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS) or Medical Technologist (MT) Bachelor degree in clinical/medical laboratory science or life sciences and completion of accredited MLS/MT program

Licensure/certification may be required by employers

Performs routine tests;develops new test methods under supervision; performs quality control tests; becomes group or team leader; supervises, teaches, delegates
Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) Associate degree and completion of accredited MLT or certificate program

Licensure/certification may be required by employers

Performs routine tests and quality control tests under supervision on MLS/MT
Specialized Fields
Pathology Assistant Master’s degree and board certification Gross examination and dissection of tissue samples sent to anatomic pathology lab; assist with autopsies
Cytogeneticist Doctoral degree (e.g., MD or PhD) and board certification Performs cytogenetic analyses to diagnose chromosomal abnormalities in human genetic diseases
Cytogenetic Technologist Bachelor degree (B.A. or B.S) in the sciences or clinical/medical laboratory science

CG certification recommended

Prepares biological specimens for cell culture and microscopic analyses as part of cytogenetic studies; assists the cytogeneticist
Cytotechnologist (CT) Bachelor degree and completion of accredited CT program Examines human cells under microscope for signs of pathology (e.g., Pap smears for signs of cancer); with appropriate experience, may supervise a cytology laboratory
Histotechnologist (HTL) or Histologist Bachelor degree and completion of accredited HTL program Prepares tissue samples for microscopic examination by pathologist and performs complex procedures; can supervise histologic technicians and, with appropriate experience, may supervise histology laboratory
Histologic technician (HT) High school degree and completion of accredited histology program Prepares sections of body tissues for microscopic examination by pathologist, processes tissue biopsies, assists histotechnologists
Phlebotomist (PBT) High school degree and training or work experience Collects blood samples from patients for lab tests

* Compiled in part from “Careers in Medical Laboratory Technology,” published by the American Society for Clinical Pathology; “Clinical Chemistry: Partnerships in Healthcare” by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry; the Association of Genetic Technologists; and Laboratory General: CAP Checklist 1 (April 1998). The specific name for many of these positions varies by location. Graphic obtained from (https://labtestsonline.org/articles/medical-laboratory-professionals)

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