A medical laboratory scientist (MLS), also referred to as a clinical laboratory scientist, medical laboratory technologist or medical technologist, is a healthcare professional who performs chemical, hematologic, immunologic, histopathological, cytopathological, microscopic, and bacteriological diagnostic analyses on body fluids such as blood, urine, sputum, stool, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), peritoneal fluid, pericardial fluid, and synovial fluid, as well as other specimens. Medical laboratory scientists work in clinical laboratories at hospitals, reference labs, biotechnology labs and non-clinical industrial labs.
No, I’m not a nurse.
Yes I draw blood, apparently I’m also known as a “Vampire” however, that is not all I do.
I work in a hospital and I’m probably the last person you want to see coming into your room. Which is usually unfortunate for me.
I see people at their worst, their sickest, their saddest, their most vulnerable times. I see families lose loved ones and I draw blood from people that will never wake up. I am there when you bring your child in for a small cut, or when they have stopped breathing and are turning blue.
Most people don’t notice me, I hang in the shadows until I’m needed, get the blood I need, and leave the room. You may not notice me, but I notice all of you. You all stay in my heart.
That mom who just lost her daughter because she took too many pills (because her boyfriend broke up with her). I ran that drug test, I reported that result. I know the outcome, even if you don’t yet. I see that mom in my mind every day, crying next to that bed.
That 7 year old that doesn’t understand his dad isn’t going to wake up because he was drinking and driving and hit a tree. I know that blood alcohol level. I resulted it. I know he was probably in an alcohol induced coma when he hit that tree. I see that little boy in my mind every day. Not understanding what happened, wondering why his mom is crying.
No one sees me, but I see them. All of the time. You may remember the doctor that tried to save your loved one, or did actually save them. You may remember the nurse that was there the entire time, trying to comfort you and the rest of your family. You may even remember the EMT that took your family to the hospital.
But how many of you remember the lab tech??
The outcome of a patient’s healthcare is so heavily based on lab results that some doctors can’t do anything for a patient until they get a certain result. It can mean the difference between staying in that hospital or being transferred to a better equipped hospital. It can mean the difference between a heart attack or a panic attack, blood transfusion or blood clot. Life, or death.
I can’t blame you, I had never heard of me until I went to college. I majored in writing, which wasn’t getting me anywhere, so I went to my admissions officer and said, I need something in healthcare, it pays well, has benefits and provides a retirement account. There will always be a need for it and I’ll always have a job. He said, why not a medical technologist? I said, sure!! What do they do??
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Looking back now, I’m not sure if I would have picked this profession. It truly is very rewarding, but it’s also very difficult. No one wants to be stuck with needles over and over again. No one wants to see my blue lab coat coming. Some people faint, some people cry. Some of them scream and some of them even try to hit me. I’ve been bitten and spit on.
Then you get that sample you worked so hard to get back to the lab, only to realize it’s clotted, hemolyzed, or you didn’t get enough for that add on test the doctor just put in.
I see a drug overdose, kidney failure, blood transfusion, leukemia diagnosis, urinary tract infection, and meningitis, all before anyone else does. I am the first to know. My heart skips a beat every time I see all of those cancer cells in a 3 year old because I know, that child’s life will be changed forever. No one else in the entire world knows about it yet, except me.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my job.
I love the people I get to meet. The stories I get to hear. The good lab results I get to report. I love my co-workers and I love doing something that makes a difference. Even if no one knows what I do.
I love giving little children stickers and the little words ” thank you” as they run away smiling, instantly forgetting the 10 minute meltdown they just had 5 minutes earlier because the needle hurt.
I love reporting that much anticipated positive pregnancy test to that woman who has been trying 5 years for that baby.
I love being a part of something that helps others every single day and I wouldn’t change the experiences that I’ve had. I am a different person because of this profession. All of the holidays missed, nights worked, weekends spent away from family, sleep that is never caught up on, it’s all worth it.
I just wonder how long I’ll keep thinking that it’s all worth it.