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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

How to Raise a Laboratorian

Published September 28, 2012 9:28 PM by Glen McDaniel

I met Jason at a local volunteer event. While we waited for the official set-up we exchanged pleasantries. At 19 years old, Jason is in his second year of college studying pre-pharmacy. When I suggested that pharmacy is a growing field with expanding scope of practice and great growth opportunity, Jason said almost dejectedly, "That's what everyone says."

We performed our civic duty and broke for lunch as Jason found his way to me again. He told me that in high school he was very good at science and math. He enjoyed experimentation and knew  he wanted a career in science. Even though he  also enjoyed tinkering with electronics, he felt unfulfilled because it was not biological in nature.

I found out that his guidance counselor had steered him towards studying pharmacy largely because of the money to be made. To his credit, he wanted more from a career. During career day at his high school he recalled hearing from a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, engineer, computer scientist and psychologist.

When he thought about pharmacy he felt no passion. He knew  he wanted to "discover evidence" and so briefly considered becoming a forensic scientist or "a researcher of some sort", but  he knew  he also wanted to have his findings used in a more immediate way to make a difference right away.

I told him about medical laboratory science and his e yes lit up. "I thought lab technicians were trained on the job to help doctors,  and not very well paid. You mean I can get a college degree, test human specimens and have the results used to make diagnosis?"

Over the next couple of weeks we talked by phone several times and this young man has decided on his own to change his major to medical laboratory science. "This is something I could be passionate about and really get into," he said. "I even like that name; I could tell everyone I am a medical scientist!."

I couldn't explain to him, why this professional option is such a well-kept secret. Why wasn't an MLS on the list of speakers at his high school? How  come no one he encountered ever suggested the option of studying MLS? Where did he ever get the idea that clinical laboratorians are merely OJT hand-maidens and man-servants of physicians?

If we are to backfill the coming vacancies in medical lab science we have to start educating high school counselors and speaking to students from the elementary level about the  work we do and the education required. I have heard too many stories of individuals who stumbled into the profession through a casual, incidental conversation.

We have to deliberately raise bright new  laboratorians to carry on the torch as we retire and become (e-gads!) patients in need of care ourselves.

 

           

7 comments

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Mr.Amin Berkati.Hasibuan Amin, electricity equipement - electrician maintenance, worker October 14, 2012 10:54 PM
Medan-20158,North Sumatra.Indonesia WA

I have been doing career days at my kids middle school for 3 years now promoting Laboratory Science.  Most of the teachers, staff and parents have never hear of/considered a career in laboratory science.  I love the slogan that ASCP has for careers ..."You don't have to be a nurse or doctor to work in a hospital."  I tell the kids that without laboratory scientists, physicians could not make a sound diagnosis without the lab staff and that we are more than just blood suckers as were are so affectionetly called.  I think the ASCP and Advance should find ways to get into the schools and promote this career.  I truly believe that within the next 5-10 years this career will take off and the salaries will go up just like nursing did 10 years ago.  There is only so much instrumentation can do and someone needs to be there to run, troubleshoot and interprete these machines that everyone thinks can replace the real Tech.  I am proud to be a Laboratory Scientist and think that more techs need to show their pride and get out there to promote this as a wonderful career choice.   Schools are closing their programs due to lack of applicants.  I believe that this problem needs to be revived and promoted in a better light to our children....our future of health care depends on us recruite the next generation.

sue, Generalist - Medical Technologist II, Hospital October 10, 2012 11:09 AM
Voorhee NJ

That's great to get them interested but where do they train?  UW-Madison closed its program and graduated its last class May 2012. There are not enough training slots for the students who are already interested.  

craig foreback, CLS - emeritus lecturer, UW-Madison October 9, 2012 12:11 PM
madison WI

I chose the Medical Laboratory career in 8th grade.  My middle school held a career fair and we student were allowed to pick three to attend.  Medical Laboratory Science I one that I picked.  

A woman came with micro plates and I was hooked.  I followed thru with that career path chosen in 8th grade.

That being said, I would not recommed the career path to any searching college bound student.

The pay is way to low. Its humiliating to have spent the time and energy to earn a CLS/MT degree only to never have the satisfaction of having a decent salary.

Is that the only aspect that makes one happy at their position,,,NO., but in all honesty, the bills cannot be paid on job satisfaction.

I do enjoy my position and would not want to lose it but a decent salary would be nice.

W. October 9, 2012 10:11 AM
Philadelphia PA

I have always known I wanted a career in science. Like Robert mentioned above, I also took a long & winding road before pursuing this career. I have a BA in Molecular Biology & a Masters in Forensic Science. After discovering the job market here in CO is piddly for forensic science careers, I decided to pursue nursing. I quickly realized, even before starting a program, that it wasn't for me. After pursuing a quick certificate in phlebotomy just to get my foot in the door of a science-oriented job, it became clear that becoming an MLS just might be a great fit for me!

It really is amazing how little I knew about this career field prior to immersing myself in it as a phleb. I agree that high school and college advisors really should be helping to promote this career. It might have helped me avoid spending thousands on degrees I never used! :)

Kimberly Boyts, Phlebotomist/MLT Student October 2, 2012 12:27 PM
CO

My own route to MLS was long and winding. I did premed and was even  accepted to med school. Then my mom died and I had to take care of  my siblings so I left school.

Then I went back to school  and got a degree in biology  after which I taught school. All along the way I was looking for a career in healthcare and kept med school in the back of mind. I also thought about physical therapy very strongly. Then I had a family, which I had to support, so I  had to keep working and thought I would teach forever although I wanted something else.

I met a lady at a party who told me about what she did. She was a MLS  and so I applied and got accepted into an accelerated program. I attended school and worked part time. Now I am an MLS and I love what I do. But again  no one in high school or college ever mentioned it to me as a career. I just stumbled on it by chance.

We  need to make sure bright young students who love science know about this wide open profession that's there for them.

Robert Foster, MLS September 30, 2012 1:21 PM
Dallas TX

Amen brother. That is so true. When I was looking for a career  as awoman all I knew about was nursing,  teaching, flight attendant then later on I heard about being an X Ray tech. I had to research and find out about  medical technology myself.

Then we also have to make a push for minorities. We need bilingual scientists, plus we need to attract people who think they would not be welcome in the profession. Right now we are mostly old, female and white. I am not saying there is anything wrong with that.

But to replace all us who are retiring we need to think outside the box. Look for young, old, black, white, Latino. Visit schools  etc

Jeanine Carter September 28, 2012 10:19 PM
Albany NY

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