University of Nebraska Medical Center

Happy National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week!

The clinical laboratory professional is a key member of today’s health care team. Laboratory professionals have the skills to unlock important medical information that is pivotal to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. (www.ascls.org)

April 24-30, 2011, is National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (NMLPW), which recognizes the work of the medical laboratory scientists who perform the tests that influence more than 70 percent of the medical decisions doctors make. A recent survey shows that most Americans know that laboratory tests are important and nearly two-thirds expect their lab results within a day or less for some tests. A growing demand for medical tests and a shortage of medical laboratory professionals, however, may make it difficult to meet demand in the future.

What Consumers Know about Lab Tests
Based on a survey sponsored by ASCP in March 2011:

  • 74 percent of adults say that at least half of doctors’ decisions are based on lab test results;
  • 84 percent recognize that tests are conducted by laboratory scientists;
  • 57 percent expect to get routine test results within a week or more and 41 percent expect them in a day or less; and
  • 63 percent expect the results of biopsies that test for serious disease within a day or less and 37 percent expect to wait a week or more.

The Shortage of Medical Laboratory Professionals

  • The demand for laboratory professionals throughout the country far exceeds the supply. Half of all laboratories nationwide struggle to hire laboratory personnel.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 138,000 new laboratory professionals will be needed by 2012, but fewer than 50,000 will be trained.

About Medical Laboratory Professionals

Medical laboratory professionals are key members of the health care team who work behind the scenes to perform the medical tests doctors order for their patients. Laboratory professionals include the staffs of hospitals, free-standing laboratories and other healthcare providers who analyze fluids and tissue to diagnose disease; manage treatment and determine a person’s risk for developing a medical condition; and draw blood.

Laboratory professionals perform a variety of functions in providing test results. These professionals include:

  • Medical laboratory scientists, who analyze fluids such as blood and urine;
  • Pathologists, doctors who specialize in laboratory medicine;
  • Phlebotomists, who draw blood;
  • Cytotechnologists, who examine human cell samples, such as those in Pap smears that test for cervical cancer; and
  • Histotechnicians, who prepare sections of tissue for examination

Taken from www.ascp.org

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