As many as 8 out of 10 medical diagnoses involve laboratory tests, but the highly trained technicians who prepare specimens, run the complex machines and make sure the results are correct can be hard to find.
So Mercy Hospital Ardmore created its own medical lab science program. The inaugural class of two students graduated Thursday.
Medical lab scientists may not see patients directly, but they are vital parts of the health care system, linking provider and patient. Every test they run represents a real person.
“For us to do tests accurately and precisely is critical to the care of the patient,” said Karen Ford, director of laboratory services at Mercy Hospital Ardmore. “Our patients are samples of blood, and we see thousands of them a day.”
The career outlook for medical lab science is excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the number of jobs nationwide will grow by 22 percent by 2022 – much faster than average.
“You don’t have to do much math to understand there’s a lab in every hospital,” Ford said.
The job requires a high level of professionalism and exquisite attention to detail. Medical lab scientists prepare blood for transfusion, typing it and making sure it is going to the right patient. They prepare and analyze body fluids for chemical or hormonal abnormalities. They examine and identify bacteria.
To become proficient in these areas, students must take coursework in organic chemistry and biochemistry, as well as mathematics – and have a high GPA. They must pass a certification exam. The four-year degree requires completion of a year of clinical work in a hospital lab.
“It is teaching them how to make clinical decisions on the laboratory level,” Ford said. “It’s probably one of the hardest school years they’ll have to go through.”
Mercy Hospital Ada also has a medical lab science program.