The medical field is filled with various careers and opportunities for candidates. From doctors to nurses and even medical laboratory scientists, the possibilities are endless for a rewarding and in-demand career helping people live better and healthier lives.
That said, the career path of a nurse and a medical laboratory scientist have distinct differences in their duties, responsibilities, and even working hours.
Let’s explore the differences between education and a career in nursing versus education and a career in medical laboratory science.
What is Nursing?
Nursing is the profession within the healthcare industry focused on providing care to individuals, families, and communities. Nurses also play an intermediary role between patients and doctors.
While doctors diagnose, treat, and prescribe medications, nurses respond to the needs of their patients and are responsible for a patient’s complete care.
They ensure a patient understands and is prepared for treatment and make sure prescriptions don’t negatively affect one another. The nurse is also typically the first to read a patient’s diagnostic results and, if needed, will notify the appropriate doctor.
Nurses provide care in hospitals, at home, and other settings to support and advocate for patients. Daily duties typically include:
- Conducting physical exams.
- Checking a patient’s vital signs.
- Taking detailed health care histories.
- Listening to patients and analyzing their physical, mental, and emotional needs.
- Drawing blood and performing other health-related testing.
What is a Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS)?
Behind every medical test result and every medical diagnosis are medical laboratory scientists. These professionals provide personalized and appropriate patient care by performing lab work, operating machinery, and interpreting and analyzing test results.
Medical laboratory scientists are vital healthcare detectives who assist physicians in patient diagnosis and treatment, as well as disease monitoring and prevention.
Medical laboratory scientists have the following responsibilities and duties:
- Examining and analyzing blood, bodily fluids, tissues, and cells.
- Conveying test results to doctors and nurses.
- Establishing quality assurance and reliability procedures to ensure the accuracy of test results.
- Blood typing and cross-matching donor blood for patient transfusions.
- Managing medical laboratory technicians.
- Standardizing drug potency.
- Designing and conducting research studies that investigate diseases and methods to prevent and treat them.
Like nurses, they work in various environments, including hospital clinical laboratories, public health laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, research and teaching facilities, and transplant and blood donor centers.
Educational Requirements for a Nurse vs. Medical Lab Scientist
In short, nurses require further advanced training and education. While you can become a nurse through an associate degree in Nursing (ADN), or Registered Nurse (RN) program, many employers prefer nurses to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
Completing a BSN ensures candidates have the knowledge and experience to succeed in today’s complex healthcare system. Upon completing an ADN or BSN program, nursing candidates will sit for their required licensure exams.
On the other hand, a career as an MLS is another highly technical field that requires specific educational and licensing requirements. Candidates in this career typically pursue a bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Science or Medical Technology. Courses in MLS degree programs include general education credits as well as courses in:
- Advanced clinical chemistry
- Medical bacteriology
Certification is not required to become an MLS in every state. Still, many states require licensure or certification to work in the medical laboratory science field, with some requiring their state-specific licensure.
Individuals interested in this career should research their state’s requirements and obtain the MLS certification through the American Society for Clinical Pathology.
Additional Differences between Nurses and Medical Technologists
Nurses have many duties, including caring for patients, communicating with doctors, administering medicine, and checking vital signs. They are not, however, typically allowed to work on medical equipment or use any power tools since they need to gain the skills or advanced training to do so.
Conversely, medical technologists and lab scientists primarily operate complex machineries like MRI, ultrasound, and CT scanners. While they provide patients with the necessary equipment and supplies, they do not perform bedside care, as their training lies in medical technology.
Additional differences include:
- Focus on the care and comfort of patients.
- Check the patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, and other vitals.
- Usually work twelve-hour shifts but can be called in during emergencies.
- Medical Laboratory Scientists
- Focus on scientific techniques and discoveries to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent diseases.
- Perform laboratory tests and clinical research using various lab equipment, including microscopes.
- Usually work during business hours, but can be called in during emergencies.
As you can see, nurses and medical laboratory technologists play vital roles in healthcare. Each requires specific and different skills that make them qualified for their position.
At University of Bridgeport, we offer degrees in both Nursing and Medical Laboratory Science that will prepare you for either of these critical, in-demand career paths.
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