Monday, 28 April 2014

The Forgotten Healthcare Professionals

*Originally published on here*

Your doctor hands you a requisition with a handful of boxes checked off for a variety of tests after your yearly (or whenever you remember to go) physical. CBC, HDL, Glucose, Electrolytes…. What? You have no idea what these mean. You go get your blood drawn then you either never hear back from your doctor if everything is okay or you do…your glucose result is high. You’re diabetic.
For most people this sounds fairly normal. Their doctor orders testing, they go to a collection centre, magic happens and they get results back! Poof! But what most people are missing where and how those results are generated. How does your physician know you’re diabetic? Those results are created by a key component to the health care system – Medical Laboratory Scientists.

Shockingly, most people have never heard of Medical Laboratory Scientists, despite the fact we are the 3rd largest Health Care profession behind Physicians and Nurses. I’ve even had residents, physicians, many nurses and other health care professionals have their eyes glaze when I tell them I’m a Medical Laboratory Scientist. Somehow we have become the “forgotten” profession behind closed doors.

But in honour of National Med Lab Week from April 20th – 26th, I’m going to let you in on the secret of what you need to know about Medical Laboratory Science and hopefully you’ll join me in thanking a hidden faction of healthcare.

Medical Laboratory Scientists are responsible for producing any and all results that leave the laboratory. Blood Glucose results to diagnose diabetes? That’s us. Mole removed due to suspected melanoma? We take that skin section, analyze it, process it and turn it into a thin slide for the pathologist. A baby presents in the ER and the physician suspects meningitis? We get a sample of spinal fluid to the lab – we culture it, identify the bacteria growing and tell the physician what antibiotics will work.

It’s been reported that 85% percent of physician diagnoses rely on laboratory results and laboratory professionals are the ones getting those results. I like to say we give physicians information of what the body is actually doing. It’s one thing for them to put symptoms and reported issues together but we give the full picture and the WHY of those symptoms, from finding cancerous blood cells to transfusion reactions.

For myself, becoming a Medical Laboratory Scientist was an easy decision. Throughout secondary and post-secondary education, I was pulled towards science subjects and getting into the lab was the next step. Everyday, I am required to think on my feet and problem-solve to ensure the results that are leaving the lab are accurate. This can mean 5 hours of machine maintenance, calibration, and quality control so I know that the critical 24.0 mmol/L glucose result leaving the lab is true. This can also mean performing testing, strategically monitoring and issuing blood products for a stroke code in 60 seconds flat. My days are never boring and affect the care of thousands of patients a day even if I don't directly see them.

With all this, you can see how important and vital we are to the Health Care system. More and more diseases and conditions are being diagnosed via lab results and this number is only going to increase with more scientific developments. As a patient, being more informed about health care and the professionals involved is a great decision and will only help you to understand this complex system more.

Take time this week to show your support and thank a lab professional by going to in Canada or in the US. Everyone thanks their doctors and nurses for their cares but next time also try thanking a Laboratory Professional!


  1. thanks a lot . This post is really useful

  2. I love posts like this. I'm an MLT (hopefully soon, an MLS), working at hospital in MN, and even though we had Lab Week, it was very quickly overshadowed by "Nurse's Week" the following week. This sort of made that better *L*

  3. You picked the perfect title for this blog! Thank you for providing this insight into the medical laboratory field for non lab folk to read. You've covered the sometimes hectic nature of the job and the sheer importance of it beautifully.

    I wrote something similar before stumbling across this post.

  4. Wow, What an Outstanding post. I found this too much informatics. It is what I was seeking for. I would like to recommend you that please keep sharing such type of info.If possible, Thanks.

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