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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Published June 28, 2012 9:45 PM by Glen McDaniel

Professions periodically assess themselves in terms of their status, how they are perceived, the services they offer, and the value they bring to the public.

Outside of healthcare this often translates to a simple name change. For example the legal profession in many countries made a conscious decision to swap their LLB (bachelor of laws) degree for a JD (Juris Doctor). Course content changed little, if at all. But it certainly is more prestigious to have a doctorate rather than a bachelor's degree. Right? Both are first professional degrees, but the JD allows greater recognition, more uniformity and also allows for international mobility.

Physical therapists a few years ago decided that the scope of knowledge of their profession was wide enough to warrant a doctorate. They also argued that their patient assessment, development of plan of care and individualized therapy were independent enough to warrant a doctorate in physical therapy (DPT). There is a bridge program to the doctorate for those PTs who currently hold a bachelors or master's degree. However, all physical therapy schools will offer the DPT by 2015.

Pharmacy is probably the best known example of a well timed professional doctorate.They chose to phase out the bachelor's degree and opt for a first professional doctorate degree (PharmD).

Again there were only very minor changes in curriculum. Pharmacists also decided to go all out and expand their role in clinical settings to become advisors, consultants and the experts on "all things medication." They now routinely monitor aspects of therapeutic drug regimen, order lab tests and adjust dosages based on protocol.  They are the "other" doctors in most hospitals, HMOs, and health centers. Other countries have quickly adopted this attractive model as well.

Physicians and patients have accepted this expanded role without complaint and some even welcome it.

Nurses have offered programs in what they term "advanced practice" for years. These nurse specialists  assume a physician-extender role, work alongside physicians and in some situations even work independently. They include nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and the like. The nursing profession has generally made the requisite advance certification very accessible and attainable.

They have also made the route to advanced practice very clearcut and uncomplicated: RN who takes advanced courses and passes a certification examination. In some cases there is a separate license. But note there are no silly round about routes like a biology degree plus experience ( are you listening MLS???)

This past week, I received a brochure  from Loyola University offering a BSN- to- DNP (bachelor of nursing to doctor of nursing practice) degree.

 This will be a 3 year program, with coursework completed completely online. In three years graduates will be called "doctor" and will additionally be eligible for certification as nurse practitioners. This direct leap of bachelor to doctor/advance practice is designed to address the provider shortage and to anticipate the additional number of patients coming into the healthcare system under health care reform.

We have had talks of a clinical laboratory science doctorate (DCLS) for almost 20 long years with not very much progress. I do not recall getting a survey from physical therapists or pharmacists or nurses about the wisdom of molding their  profession. They saw a need to change their image, to offer expanded services,  to better serve patients;  and they found a way to do it, easily, efficiently and without too much burden on current practitioners. Healthcare administrators and patients saw the extra value and have embraced them.

But we continue to survey others and  mutter among ourselves. Why is the Medical Laboratory Science profession so hesitant?


Shanty, who is that directed at? Who are you speaking to? It is not clear.  I dont see anyone wanting to change to nursing. I think Anonymous is saying that we should be better paid based on our education and training. We are well educated and most of us love our profession. We just want to be recognized for the valuable job we do. I for one sure dont want to be  a nurse.

Shanty are you a MT/MLS?  You say "if" he has undergrad degree. In this country most MTs have a bachelors. It's the exception not to have  a degree. So even I dont know him,  I am almost sure Anonymous has his degree. That's the point-even with a degree he is getting paid less than some nurses WITHOUT a degree.

Magda D July 23, 2012 3:47 PM
Livingston NJ

I know that your goal is to have more of a  clinical edge  but I think that you have an edge aladery in your knowledge.From my experience, I have known people such as RNs, pharmacists, etc, that get into the sales part of medicine due to interest in changing their careers, burnout from their current jobs, etc.  And of my pharm rep friends who have decided to do nursing or go to med school   it was for that reason, basically a job change for them to go to the clinical side of health rather than stay in sales.Unless you have an interest in nursing, I would not recommend that you take the time to go to school for that.  Keep in mind that in nursing school you have to do clinical rotations and take the nursing exams   meaning you will invest a lot of time and it will definitely take you to a different place for while.  You may even change careers, who knows.Perhaps consider getting your MBA (if you aladery have your undergraduate degree) if you are looking for career advancement.Best of luck.

Shanty Shanty, TVnFYWCClsiH - rlwshEHQhDBLJHR, qDRoCFlRQN July 20, 2012 9:50 PM

Anonymous, it all depends on where you live and the organization you work for. I have worked in this state for many years and before that I worked in New York and also in California. The pay varies a lot, even in the same city sometimes from lab to lab.

I am a supervisor and I make $35.20/hour after 20 years in the profession, but then I know nurses the same age as me who make  a little less. Of course I dont get overtime and they can get OT usually.

In our facility (which I am not allowed to name) pay starts at $18/hr base for new MT/MLS who is certified. But there is  a review at 6 months and a  full evaluation including salary review  every year. So the first year the new employee gets reviewed twice.

Our shift differential is $2.75 second shift, $3.50 third shift and weekend (Friday night to Sunday at midnight) is an additional $2 so weekend night is $5.50 above base

At my job in NY and CA I made more as a staff tech and I could get lots of OT. But I did not have the responsibility and the  "no weekend" work schedule which I like.

Also I remember when w emade more than nurses. Nothing has changed about our relative education. It is just that nurses made more noise and even joine dunions in some places. They also started showing up in administration, started supervising other departments as directors and influenced administration to resecta nd pay nurses more.

I think it is our fault because we dont want to do the same thing. Employers are not going to look and say "MTs work really hard and have degrees whereas some nurses dont."

I do agree that we are hurt a lot by pathologists who dont support us. If they insisted that we have a personnel shortage and the lab had to pay more to attract enough qualified staff our salaries would be better. I feel that if they were willing to give us more props to doctors we would be respected more.

But I feel we cant just wait for them to help us. We have to help ourselves.

Maria C July 4, 2012 12:47 PM

I WOULD LIKE TO DARE EVERYBODY TO POST A BREAK DOWN OF THEIR HOURLY SALARY HERE AND PERTINENT COMPENSATION INFO! (and yes am yelling). Sorry Glenn, I have to post this under your article because yours is almost always the most visited.....

1.) $28.18- 12 years experience, $2.50 eve shift diff, $3.00 night shift diff

2.) $25.27- second job day shift no day shift diff. HA!

Benefits and type of employments are irrelevant. Everybody has it and health care field are redundantly almost the same.

Pathetic side notes:

1.) My co-worker just retired at 65- 40 years experience, $26.25 her salary.

2.) Microbiology Section Head 200- bed high volume in and out patient services- salary $33 with 20 years experience.

3.) Both ASCP certified

Very Important Note: I am a PROUD A.M.T. certified technologist, and CSMLS as well.

Conclusion: I can really be smart with the right price. Therefore with Lab Advance Degrees? I have NO express interest whatsoever. And Terri's comment, last sentence is not new. I heard this way back year 2000, lo and behold I hear it again 2012. And I will hear it again year 2024.


Anonymous July 3, 2012 3:06 PM

I used to think that a title would not mean anything. I used to laugh at my fellow CLS colleagues who would get MBAs and then stay on the bench. Then I started thinking. Several of my friends have left and gone into teaching or being administrator of a hospital department (not lab) because of advanced degee they got. They jumped at the opportunity because they were qualified, even though they did not get the degree with the aim of leaving the lab.

So you might think that I was right to think you have to leave the lab to progress. But then I worked with a guy with a PhD in Microbiology. He insisted the doctors and nurses call him "Dr" and they relied on him much more than the pathologist. It was like he was their equal.

He did not want to fool anyone that he was a medical doctor. In fact he made it clear he was  a laboratorian with a doctorate. Nurses and doctors started asking for the "lab doctor" when they could not remember him by name or if even if they had just HEARD about him from another colleague. He served on several hospital committees.  That changed my perception of what we can do and how people will view us if we step up to the plate.

We are way too timid for our own good.

Jonas P June 30, 2012 2:36 PM
San Diego CA

I think it is more of a personality thing. The majority of Med Techs are content to stay in the shadows and work in the background with little to no patient contact. If we had more responsibility, with any title close to Doctor, we would have to interact with patients more. I would personally like this, and I know of a few others who would, but I am pretty sure that most people in the lab I work in would not be interested. Alot of them lack confidence and I think part of this is due to the limits put on us when we are confined to the lab. I learned the most when I worked in a tiny rural hospital with limited services. I did all my own phlebotomy and assisted nurses, radiology techs, and doctors on a daily basis. I am now back at a typical lab setting at a medium sized hospital and I truly miss that interaction.

Andrea June 29, 2012 11:34 AM
Toledo OH

I think because there aren't many chances for advancement/pay increase for our profession.  I am going to start a SBB/Master's program online, and it's going to cost a lot of money.  But it's just for me; it won't get me any type of advancement or pay raise.  Disappointing....but I hope that this will open up future opportunities for me.

Until the pay for lab professionals starts rising to that of other medical professionals (some with less education than us), I don't think you will ever see much interest in advanced degrees.

Terri, Blood Bank Supervisor June 29, 2012 6:19 AM
Middletown NY

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