11 answers

What are the challenges of being a medical laboratory scientist?

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This is my major. I want to learn more about this field.
#medical-practice

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11 answers

Cindy’s Answer

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The laboratory science field changes very rapidly. It can be challenging to remain up to date in all areas of the laboratory. Many laboratory scientists choose one or two areas of lab to work in and concentrate on remaining proficient in those areas.

For me, I stayed up to date in chemistry, hematology and blood bank. I am not as proficient in microbiology, flow cytometry or molecular.

Cindy recommends the following next steps:

  • See if you can volunteer in a hospital or research lab while you are on summer break. Ask if you can rotate through all areas of the lab. While there, ask lots of questions. You might find some areas of the lab more interesting than others.
Yes, absolutely agree with all the suggestions but would like to add that it is not a typical 8-5 position. You can work many different shifts/timings. Shehzana Hussaini
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Chesie’s Answer

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Your ability to grow within the lab without going back to school for more certifications.

Usually promotions are based upon longevity within the company and because laboratories have lots of staff above 50, they are often given preference.

Chesie recommends the following next steps:

  • Work as a medical lab scientist to gain experience within the field for at least 4 years.
  • Consider pursuing an online MBA course to enable you get lab management positions as they become available either within your company or elsewhere.
It is an up and coming field for young people. Lots of people are getting ready to retire, and need to be replaced!! There's a shortage of techs right now, so it's a great field to be in Computer skills are a MUST Linda osmialowski
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Dennis’s Answer

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Medical Laboratory scientists covers many different areas. Your days 

will be spent in a lab and office environment and you will be 

surprised to learn that you will spend a fair amount of your day 

writing and reading, not working at your lab bench.


In medical areas, you could be working with infectious agents that 

cause disease and these require special precautions,training and 

equipment to handle. Some people are not comfortable with this (I 

always enjoyed it)


You will have exposure to a variety of chemicals, but you should have 

adequate protection and training to handle them as well.


The best thing about such work is that it is never boring! You will be 

working on something different at frequent intervals or have the 

opportunity to do so. This is true whether you are working in 

research, a testing laboratory or a production laboratory.


Good luck with your career! Whatever you do, always do your best and 

give your all. It is easy to criticize, but it not so easy to do. Be 

a doer.


Dennis Ray Schneider, Ph.D.

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Tony K.’s Answer

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It is a rewarding career especially for the curious mind. Attention to detail is the best skill you can hone for this field of work. Your work will impact individuals and families, so you have to be up to date with all SOPs; no great margin for error.

On the other hand, you’ll get the flow of things at whatever lab you work in and things get interesting and easier.

Good luck.

Tony K. recommends the following next steps:

  • Watch some YouTube videos on Laboratory medicine.
  • Look into cap.org
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Matthew’s Answer

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1) understand what you are doing. If you get that wrong, somebody could die or suffer.

2) constantly improve, it is easy to get complacent after a few years. Figuring how to balance work and personal life (e.g. raising a family, paying bills, having joy, & me/down time) can be challenging.

3) develop a respectful thick skin, some senior people with advanced degrees & high positions can be difficult to work with having short fuses; and there is nothing you do other than be the best.

4) stay on top of your job field, know what the market is paying for your skills.

Matthew recommends the following next steps:

  • get the basics down: math, chemistry, biology, physics, reading, writing and speaking.
  • decide clinical or research. Try to get a tour of each. It is a real paying job, but will you burn out and regret being there?
  • Meet the people. What are the professional societies? What opportunities do they offer young people to get in the business?
  • What are the journals? Does reading them interest you?
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Beth’s Answer

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Hello, challenges include; exposure to blood borne pathogens, walking/standing for long hours, kneeling/bending, and a lot of communication with fellow scientists. Depending on the type of environment you work, not everyone is trained to do the same thing so you may be in charge of running a lot of tests. It’s also handy to familiarize yourself with Excel and Word as your results will need to be documented in real time.

Beth recommends the following next steps:

  • I recommend determining if you’d like to work for a hospital or other medical facility as your responsibilities may be different.
  • I would then suggest reaching out to them in search of a shadowing opportunity or internship.
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Nicholas’s Answer

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Hi, challenges include exposure to bodily fluids and possible diseases along with extreme cold (-320F liquid nitrogen). Of course standing and walking 4 to 5 hours daily, as well as, bending, stooping, and lifting 15 to 25 lbs.

Nicholas recommends the following next steps:

  • I’d suggest a short internship because you might find the work interesting.
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B. R.’s Answer

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It's wonderful field.

It's a time demanding career. It requires passion, self motivation, ability to work under experimental stress, and a output based career. You need to publish articles and apply for the funding to move forward. It requires experimental and scientific writing skills that could be acquired easily.

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Kirin’s Answer

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Besides needing to be super organized and OCD, the number one challenge is saying "no" to people...a lot. I work in a medium size family practice we have 5 clinics with 28 Dr's. You have to reject specimens because they are not properly labeled with at least 2 identifiers, because a patient brings a urine culture back in a jelly jar, because a wet mount tube was left out at room temperature all night, because a blood tube was left in a centrifuge unspun all night...etc. Nurses and Dr's get mad at us Lab folk because we have such strict requirements that we must maintain for accuracy, accountability and viability "Can't I just put a lable on the urine after it's collected?" When I call someone, usually they answer the phone "what did I do wrong now..." You have to have thick skin. All that being said, my coworkers are great, nurses are always willing to draw blood if phlebotomists are slammed and most Dr's are pretty understanding that a patient has to be redrawn because the wrong tube was drawn. I love my job and the role I play in patient care.

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Alona’s Answer

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It can be challenging to not see the benefits of your work to the individual patient, being behind the scenes. You may work years contributing to research before therapy gets from the bench to the hurting person. Do you have humility and patience? Scientists have many areas to pick from in medical laboratory practice. If you love fast paced environments, go for hospital. The challenge there is 24/7/365 expectations.

Alona recommends the following next steps:

  • Learn how to collect specimens in school. Most laboratory errors start with the wrong-person, matrix, amount or contaminated collection for the method or analysis.
  • Understand statistics. Find a tutor if you are struggling. It helps to know for your experiments.
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Farkhondeh’s Answer

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It’s a challenge to get accepted in a good training program. During the internship a new CLS learns the basic techniques of laboratory work. These will remain with you for the rest of your career.
Once looking for a career it’s a challenge to decide which department to focus on. There are several options. A generalist has more job opportunities for years to come, a microbiologist or blood banker has specialties that makes them pinned down to those two areas. Are you someone who likes to focus your work in one specific area? Then microbiology maybe a good choice. Are you someone who likes to deal with some excitement in your daily work then blood bank could be a good option.
Working as a CLS is challenging because very few know what is a CLS? Our career is not well known publicly. We are like under the scene staff! Our work is critical in the medical field but we are basically unknown heroes of the field. Can you deal with being obscure?
It’s challenging to be a CLS because most laboratory spaces are in the basement of the hospital and while working you will not see the outside world. There are no windows to outside in a basement. Of course there are references labs on ground floor or higher but if you work in a hospital lab you will be in a basement at work.
It’s challenging to work as a CLS because the work space is usually small and crowded with instruments, refrigerators, incubators and there’s always a noise in the air. If you work in microbiology there’s also a smell in the air. All those bacteria are growing in the incubators and producing smelly gas! It’s what a microbiologist hopes for, that’s how we know the culture is growing!
Also it’s challenging to keep up with new technology and information systems, they seem to change the information system every few year! So you have to be ready to learn all new sets of codes and abbreviations!

Farkhondeh recommends the following next steps:

  • Make sure your GPA is in good standing
  • Look for the best training programs
  • While in training try to spend extra time in the laboratory so you find out which department is more interesting to you
  • Try to start your career as a generalist
  • After a few years as a CLS think about either micro or blood bank. Are you willing to work at either of these areas?
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