In My Blood

In most other workplaces, a blood-spattered desk would be cause for a police investigation.

For me, it was just Friday.

Let’s just say that if blood or other bodily fluids and excretions bother you, you probably don’t want to pursue a career as a medical laboratory scientist.

But maybe you do want to pursue that path. Maybe you love medical science but aren’t masochistic enough to put yourself through medical school. Maybe you love helping sick people but don’t want to be anywhere near them while you do, because, frankly, they’re a little needy. Maybe you love biology and lab work, but don’t want to spend a lifetime begging for grant money to keep your cell cultures or graduate students fed. There’s hope for you yet! Stay tuned to find out how you too can have a vibrant healthcare career!

I know, that’s a ridiculous infomercial, but I feel like it’s my duty to promote my profession, because there are too few of us out there. We’re not well understood or respected. I want that to change. Everyone knows about doctors and nurses, but the third vital side of the healthcare triangle, the medical “techs”, live in relative obscurity.

The Board of Certification for medical technologists here in the US changed things up a couple of years ago and tried to give us more respect by changing our title from “Medical Technologist” to “Medical Laboratory Scientist”. It was a lovely gesture, but it didn’t really help. I mean, I didn’t get a raise or a talk show or anything, and I still get a blank stare and polite nod when I tell folks what I do. Although I think people picture a lab coat and some test tubes now, which is a little closer to right.

I write about my work sometimes on this blog, and last year, I wrote a series of posts here for Medical Laboratory Professionals Week. Some of them explain the science and techniques behind laboratory tests, and some of them are about my experiences in the various labs I’ve worked in. I would very much like to do that again this year as a way to raise awareness about the profession. I never heard about medical laboratory science careers until I was already through university with a Bachelors in Physiology and couldn’t find much to do with it. I hope that by writing about it here, I can make the profession just a little more visible, and maybe inspire someone to look into it as a career.

Even if I can’t inspire anyone to get into a lab career, maybe I can help people understand what the job is about. Why do you only have to fast sometimes before a blood test? What happens to a blood donation? How does blood tell the doctor how sick someone is? I’d love to make Medical Laboratory Professionals Week into a sort of Q&A session, but for that I will need your help. Does anyone have any Qs that I can A?

What do you think the job is? Have you ever heard of it before? What would you like to know about labs, blood, and medical tests? I’m getting started early this year because I want to collect questions and get to work answering them well. I want to give myself time to draw diagrams and take pictures and maybe even interview folks in different types of lab positions, so I can really do right by my profession and show off my colleagues as the caring, intelligent, dedicated people they are.

So, hit me with your questions, and I’ll do my best.

6 thoughts on “In My Blood

  1. Zsoop

    What sort of school is required for the job? Do you have to wear different levels of protective clothing depending on the test? Is it a good long-term job, or do most people get into it temporarily on the way to something else? How much of your work deals with software? What’s the neatest/most unusual thing you ever found (if you can talk about it)?

    Sorry, kind of spamming you with all over the place questions, but I do actually find it very interesting!

    1. Jen

      No, not spamming at all! Thanks for the great questions! Are you okay with waiting until Lab Week (in April) for answers to some of these?

  2. Gingy

    I’m on the track to becoming a medical lab technologist. I’m to apply to the program by June. SCIENCE! (Screw those squishy humanities)

    1. Jen

      That is excellent. I’m sure you’ll be good at it, too. You know who to come to with questions. My rates are very reasonable. 🙂

  3. Natasha

    Have you found out what the difference, in the US, is between the two-year program and the four-year program? Both in terms of what folks have to take and in terms of career progression?

  4. Ginny Marie

    Your profession is very important to me! I have to have a blood test every year (I have one coming up) for breast cancer. I’m a 16 year survivor. Thank you for what you do!


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