What they do
Medical scientists perform laboratory tests on blood, other body fluids and tissue samples which provide information to assist in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. They test samples for the presence of disease and potential causes, which may include bacteria, viruses or parasites. They may also run tests to determine the chemical composition of the sample and concentrations of naturally occurring components, such as testing blood to determine a blood group and the concentrations of red and white blood cells. The results of these tests can be used to assist general practitioners and other medical specialists to effectively treat and prevent disease.
Medical scientists work in laboratories, which may operate independently or can be attached to hospitals. There may also be limited opportunities to work in specialist veterinary diagnostic laboratories. They work closely with blood and infectious specimens, so must take care to follow strict safety procedures to minimise the risk of contamination.
The hours of work can vary, depending on the size of the laboratory. Medical scientists working in larger laboratories, particularly those attached to hospitals, may be required to work shifts, which include working nights, weekends and public holidays. Those working in small laboratories may work more regular business hours, though they may occasionally work overtime to finish running time-sensitive tests. Most medical scientists will also be required to be on-call in case of emergencies.
Depending on your specialisation as a Medical Laboratory Scientist, you may be required to travel to find employment in your specific field.
Tools and technologies
Medical scientists use a range of highly specialised machines to carry out a range of tests. They may also use traditional laboratory equipment, such as microscopes, slides and materials to grow specimen cultures. Protective clothing, such as lab coats, safety glasses and gloves, must be worn to reduce the risk of infection and the contamination of samples. Medical scientists use computers to compile reports of their findings and keep records of any tests carried out. Medical scientists who are on-call will also be required to carry a mobile phone so that they can be contacted at any time.
How do I become one?
Education and training
To become a medical laboratory scientist, you usually need to study a science degree, majoring in laboratory medicine or medical laboratory science.
Curtin University and Central Queensland University both offer a four-year Bachelor of Science (Medical Laboratory Science). These are the only universities offering degrees in medical laboratory science in Western Australia. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.