are nursing and medical laboratory science the same thing

Nursing vs. Medical Laboratory Science: What’s the Difference?

The medical field is filled with various careers and opportunities for candidates. From doctors to nurses to 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, and even the working hours, of a nurse and a medical laboratory scientist have distinct differences in their duties and responsibilities.

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.
  • 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 sophisticated instrumentation, 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.
  • 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.

A career as an MLS is another profession 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:

  • Immunohematology (Blood Banking)
  • Clinical Chemistry
  • Hematology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Phlebotomy

National certification is required to become an MLS in every state. Several states also require state-specific licensure or certification to work in the medical laboratory science field. Medical laboratory scientists often obtain master’s or doctoral degrees as they begin to specialize in their field of practice.

Individuals interested in this career should research their state’s requirements and obtain the national 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 operate 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 operate complex diagnostic instrumentation and perform manual analysis methods such as microscopy. They can provide patients with the necessary equipment, supplies, and training to perform simple lab tests at home. Medical laboratory scientists can also perform bedside testing such as point-of-care glucose measurements on a portable glucose meter.

Additional comparisons include:

  • Nurses
    • Focus on the care and comfort of patients.
    • Check the patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, and other vitals.
    • Usually work twelve-hour shifts and can be called in during emergencies.
    • Work days, evenings, and nightshifts, including weekends and holidays.
  • Medical Laboratory Scientists
    • Focus on scientific methods and discoveries to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent diseases.
    • Perform laboratory tests and clinical research using sophisticated lab instrumentation and microscopes.
    • Usually work 8, 10, or 12-hour shifts and can be called in during emergencies.
    • Work days, evenings, and nightshifts, including weekends and holidays.

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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