Covid-19 Drives the National Spotlight on Clinical Laboratory Science

As the world fights the SARS-2 COVID pandemic, the attention on testing and medical laboratory practices moves full center. The Nation’s current situation shines a light on laboratory professionals and gives exposure to the backbone of laboratory testing, the Medical Laboratory Scientist, also known as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist (MLS/CLS). An MLS/CLS most often works in a medical laboratory and is a highly skilled scientist who tests for the presence or absence of disease and provides data to help physicians determine diagnoses and treatment for patients. Approximately 70% of all medical treatments/diagnoses are based on laboratory test results.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of clinical laboratory scientists (MLS/CLS) and technicians (CLT/MLT) is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. With an increase in the aging population, there is a greater need to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer or type II diabetes, through certified laboratory procedures. While the need for these professionals is clear, we are at a standstill in terms of the number of medical/clinical laboratory professionals entering the workforce each year. With an average of 11,000 needed each year, there are on average only 5,000 graduates a year. The CSULA CLS Certificate Program offered through PaGE was created with the goal of helping to alleviate this shortage.

The MLS/CLS requires a bachelor’s degree and in the State of CA, a year of clinical training (clinical training varies from State to State). Programs prepare graduates to sit for the American Society for Clinical Pathology National Board of Certification exam. Once nationally certified, these individuals apply for licensure. The CLS program was created by Dr. Nancy McQueen, PhD., MLS (ASCP)CM in 2011. The CSULA Certificate Program has facilitated the entrance of approximately 170 professionals into the workforce. Graduates of this program score approximately 150 points above the national average. This profession is an option for students that have an inclination towards the medical field, but rather not work directly with patients. Laboratorians makeup part of a patient’s diagnostic team, and are behind the scenes helping save lives. As we struggle with the shortages in our nation during these unprecedented times, I believe that the national spotlight on Clinical Laboratory Science can steer this profession into the future, because without the MLS/CLS, physicians are just guessing.

Gloria C. Preza, PhD., CLS (ASCP)