A career as a Medical
Laboratory Scientist or Technician
Medical Laboratory Scientists (MLS) - are career scientists that run the highly automated, IT-driven diagnostic laboratory environment. MLS must possess an in-depth understanding of scientific theory and ability to troubleshoot problems. Scientists provide laboratory results interpretation and set the high standards of Quality Assurance expected from today's Diagnostic Laboratories. MLS interact with physicians, nurses, pathologists and other health professionals advising on laboratory test results and additional laboratory testing that may be indicated for final patient diagnoses.
MLS have an important role in disease diagnosis and the monitoring of patient treatment. They analyse patient specimens/samples sent to the laboratory producing results used by clinical staff in the diagnosis of 70-80% of all patient disorders. It is important therefore that MLS are well trained and in NZ the vocational pathway to registration as a practising MLS is via a four year University degree.
MLS are employed mainly in hospital and community based pathology laboratories, medical research and animal health laboratories. Other career options can take MLS graduates into medicine, forensic science, the laboratory supply business, IT, primary and secondary school teaching and research in the sciences.
Medical Laboratory Technicians (MLT) also work in diagnostic pathology laboratories. They perform sample collections, specimen handling and laboratory testing under Scientist or Pathologist supervision. Training to become a MLT is usually via an in-house two year apprentice-style training programme that does not require tertiary level education.
The MLS profession has been traditionally divided into disciplines but technology is today gradually blurring the boundaries of some of these subject areas:
Analysis of the chemical constituents of the blood, urine, faeces and tissues. Most testing utilises sophisticated laboratory instrumentation interfaced to a laboratory information system. Diseases such as diabetes, renal failure, heart disease and hepatitis are some of the conditions investigated by clinical biochemists.
The study of the immune system and associated diseases. Immunology scientists study the response to disease often through the measurement of antibody production. This approach allows the diagnosis of diseases such as HIV infection, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies and a range of autoimmune diseases.
The study of the genetic basis of disease. Scientists work with chromosomes and DNA to provide information about congenital diseases such as Turner's and Down syndromes. They also look for changes to chromosomes and genes in diseases such as cancer and inherited metabolic disorders.
The study of the cells of the blood the bone marrow and the clotting proteins present in blood. Haematology scientists investigate the blood and bone marrow of patients for diseases such as anaemia, cancer, bleeding and thrombosis.
Is the preparation, processing and staining of tissues obtained during surgery, biopsy or necropsy. Histology scientists prepare sections of tissue that are examined by pathologists in the investigation of tissue disease e.g. cancer.
Is the study of cell preparations collected from the lungs, lymph nodes, genital tract etc. for the presence of cancer cells. Evaluation of the 'Pap' smear for the detection of cervical cancer is an important role of the cytology scientist.
The culture of bacteria and fungi and the identification of parasites that cause human disease. Microbiologists provide information about the susceptibility of these bacteria to antibiotics used to treat infections. Microbiologists use microscopy to examine samples for human parasites in a variety of clinical samples such as faeces and blood.
Is the science of blood and blood-product manufacture & transfusion. Transfusion scientists make blood components from donated blood that are used to treat bleeding, and to correct blood deficiencies in patients. Transfusion scientists investigate donated blood for infectious agents and perform cross-matching to ensure safe blood transfusions and graft survival of tissue transplants.