The United States medical system is due to experience a shortage in a vital area of health care: Medical Lab Services. Less than half the number of technicians and scientists needed to meet forecast demands for the next decade is set to enter the profession judging by current college and university enrollment statistics around the country, yet this is the area of greatest activity in the medical testing sector, especially in states such as Texas, California, New York, and Pennsylvania.
To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by University of Cincinnati’s Bachelor of Science in Medical Laboratory Science Online program.
The Nature of Lab Analysis
Medical Lab Scientists and Technicians belong to a group of analysts, which also includes X-ray, MRI, Ultrasound, and CT scanning technicians. More tests are performed on blood, tissue, hair, and bodily waste than in any of the other areas to the tune of 4 to 5 billion tests annually in the United States alone. Although all test results mentioned above inform the treatment decisions of doctors and sometimes lab testing is not required at all, almost three quarters (70%) of physicians’ decisions are based on the results of MLS testing data. Their importance cannot be overstated.
Professionals in this field analyze data, which enable doctors to identify illness or assess the severity of a known condition. With their data in hand, physicians pinpoint different types of cancer, genetic blood disorders, and diabetes. Lab work contributes to the diagnosis of many illnesses and conditions leading to surgery, pharmaceutical treatment. Often, lab tests show that nothing is wrong with a person, which is also a valuable result. Testing in this department is also used to rule out drug use among recovering addicts or professional athletes.
A Growing Technical Field
Even if the population were to remain static, the number of people submitting blood, urine, stool, or tissue samples would have increased in recent years and is set to increase in the future owing to new legislation. The Affordable Care Act made medical services more accessible so that a growing number of clients visited their doctors regardless of their insurance status. Previously, they would have ignored symptoms because they were unable to afford medical treatment and might not have sought care until a condition became acute.
An added burden to the system is an aging population. Statistical predictions show that, by 2050, almost 84 million citizens will be aged 65 or older. As Americans age, their need for testing rises, straining a department which employs about 12,000 people across the country at any given time.
The senior sector of US society is faced with particular, common disorders and conditions. These include dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and age-related forms of cancer. Special testing in these areas will rise exponentially as instances of these conditions rise and doctors call for related testing.
If new graduates from MLS programs around the United States fill spots, which are vacated by retirement and employees transitioning to new jobs, the strain on labs will be mitigated; however, only roughly 5,000 people are slated to enter this workforce in the next several years. Numbers are inadequate according to current data; graduates from 2- and 4-year programs will not meet demands, which are expected to grow by 22% according to a study by the University of Cincinnati. Medical Lab Analysis is one of the fastest growing employment opportunities in the country, medical or otherwise. Medical Lab Science studies would offer a sensible area of study to a recent high school graduate looking for job security or a mature individual seeking a change of career and new challenges, which are virtually guaranteed to provide a job when he or she completes these studies.
Prospects are good and so is the money a person can make by pursuing Medical Lab studies. An Associate Degree, resulting in the title Medical Lab Technician, requires just two years of schooling after which time a graduate can potentially earn $40,750 each year, the average rate of pay. Medical Lab Scientists study for 4 years, come away with a BSc, and can earn in excess of $60,000 annually on average.
Students graduating from institutions in Texas or California will be confronted by the greatest need. Texan labs top the demand for Medical Lab Scientists while data shows that California’s requirements for Medical Lab Technicians is highest in the country. Pennsylvania and New York states compete for slots on the list of top-5 states where demand for both types of employees is greatest.
Challenges in Medical Lab Sciences
A new age of MLS studies and activities is looking more closely at molecular diagnostics, investigating disease at the genetic level. An aging generation of scientists and technicians in Medical Labs around the United States and the world was not trained to recognize or analyze genetic material. Their focus was still microscopic, but technology has permitted professionals to peer more closely at the DNA of patients. New testing methods and analytical responses are part of curricula the newest generation of students will enroll in. They will be able to satisfy professional responsibilities in what is known as personalized medicine.
Diagnosing and treating the individual based on what a doctor knows about the patient genetically as well as knowledge of a disease or condition is known as Personalized Medicine. Previously, physicians identified a condition then used statistics and research regarding that condition to treat it. Medicos applied what they knew of their patients to treatment protocol, but were unable to call on scientific information to support an approach, which would individualize a plan for the patient.
The field of medical research is changing drastically as a result of improvements and advancements in technology, allowing scientists to see more of a person at the molecular level. Doctors are now able to select a course of treatment for a disease, which will address the specific DNA of each person they treat. Students entering post-secondary studies in this field will encounter brand new methods of data recognition and collection in order to help doctors treat their patients at a more personal level than ever before. Although the changing face of studies is potentially daunting, it is also exciting for the next batch of students searching for a vibrant career in medical sciences.