In an article titled “The hidden profession that saves lives”, Rodney E. Rohde, PhD identifies the work done by medical laboratory scientists as “one of the most under-recognized health professions – with excellent job prospects”.
Dr. Rohde’s article concludes that medical laboratory scientists (MLS) are the unsung heroes behind patient care.
Many patients believe the doctor does the laboratory testing, as they often do on television, but the reality is that most doctors rely on the MLS’s to do it. He says, “Patient history and physical signs and symptoms are vital, but most diagnoses need confirmation that only laboratory tests can provide.”
The article cites Rodney Forsman, administrative director emeritus of the Mayo Clinic Medical Laboratories and president of the Clinical Laboratory Management Association: “94 percent of the objective medical data in the patient record comes from the laboratory professionals.”
He supports that argument with a 2008 report in the Annals of Clinical Biochemistry where the authors reported that the junior doctors they surveyed were “more confident in their knowledge of when to request tests than in their ability to interpret the results.” Narrowing it down further, “18 percent of them said they would order a lab test without knowing how to interpret the result.”
This is likely due to the fact that only small portion of the training curriculum for physicians and other non-laboratorians is in medical laboratory testing; however, it is the main focus in the studies for MLS and MLT students.
Dr. Mary Ann McLane, University of Delaware professor and past president of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, was quoted: “Medical laboratory scientists are on the cutting edge of determining — by evidence-based practice — the most useful, time-efficient, safest, least costly diagnostic tests to be used for your health care. They are involved in the research needed to bring the best that science and technology can offer into the realm of diagnostic reality, all for the benefit of the patients we serve.”
Dr. Rohde makes what we already knew very clear: medical laboratory scientists and medical laboratory technicians are the solid foundation of many diagnoses and treatment plans. The doctors rely on the laboratorians, as do the patients — even though they don’t know it.