What is a clinical laboratory scientist?

A clinical laboratory scientist works in a hospital or clinical laboratory. Their job is to collect, analyze, and analyze patient samples to diagnose and treat diseases. Sometimes called a clinical laboratory technician or medical technician, a clinical laboratory scientist performs tests ordered by doctors to provide information about a patient's health. Doctors use this information to diagnose, prevent and treat diseases.

Clinical laboratory scientists often use sophisticated biomedical techniques, instrumentation, and computers to perform tests on blood and body fluids. For example, clinical laboratory scientists use microscopes to examine and identify different types of cells. They also use diagnostic kits to detect chemicals in the blood. Excellent sterile technique and manual dexterity are required to maintain safe conditions in an environment where blood and other body fluids are present. A clinical laboratory scientist also has access to sensitive medical information and must keep that information private.

Examples of the types of tests a clinical laboratory scientist may perform include determining the amount of cholesterol in a patient's blood sample, checking for changes in the appearance of cervical cells, detecting drugs of abuse in the bloodstream, or detecting bacteria in the urine. These tests are essential for diagnosing and treating heart disease, cervical cancer and bladder infections, and for detecting drug abuse. A large number of diseases and disorders depend on accurate laboratory tests for their diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. In fact, a laboratory is a critical part of modern hospitals and clinics.

Clinical laboratory technicians complete an associate's degree or certificate program that focuses on the theoretical and practical aspects of clinical laboratory science. Someone with a bachelor's degree from an accredited clinical laboratory science program can become certified in the field and work as a clinical laboratory scientist. Training in a bachelor's program will include more in-depth courses than technical classes, as well as management and education courses. Universities with academic medical centers often have bachelor's degree programs in clinical laboratory science.

The scientific term clinical laboratory does not generally refer to a Ph.D. or MD-level scientist conducting clinical research. Clinical research involves the use of patients in academic research to study problems related to health and medicine. Clinical research can be done in a laboratory or clinic, but it is not usually done in a hospital laboratory, the workplace of a clinical laboratory scientist. A hospital laboratory is primarily for testing samples from patients in that hospital.

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