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Job Shadowing Leads to Career as a Medical Laboratory Scientist

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Angleen Strauss, MLS(ASCP)CM, used job shadowing of medical laboratory professionals to be sure the career suited her love of science. Now as an ASCP Career Ambassador, she is promoting the medical laboratory profession to middle and high school students.

“I love describing my job as a medical laboratory professional to students,” Ms. Strauss said. “Many students like science but do not even know these jobs exist.”

As a high school sophomore she began working at the Beaver Dam Community Hospital, Beaver Dam, Wis., but she was not sure what career to choose. Her aunt, a medical laboratory technician, told her about jobs in laboratory medicine and helped arrange for Ms. Strauss to job shadow laboratory professionals in five or six laboratories.

Once hooked, she entered a medical laboratory technician (MLT) program at a community college, learning how to become a phlebotomist in the first semester. “I figured why not work as a phlebotomist while I attended school,” Ms. Strauss said. So she transferred from the Nutrition Department to a higher paid phlebotomy position at Beaver Dam Community Hospital, using it as a stepping stone to becoming an MLT and offsetting the costs of her education.

A few years after earning her certification as an MLT from the ASCP Board of Certification, Ms. Strauss took online courses at the University of Cincinnati to earn a bachelor’s degree and become a medical laboratory scientist (MLS). Again, she worked full time while taking a full-time course load, describing the experience as “insane but it worked.” Her hospital shift of seven days on, seven days off made it possible.

Ms. Strauss says that her job allows her to be a laboratory generalist and work in every department. “I really like the freedom and the variety of patient cases that I cover every day,” she said.

Her love of her MLS career is evident to the students from fifth grade to 12th grade during 16 presentations she has made to date. Ms. Strauss shows students a 12-minute videotape that she made in the laboratory and then shows them samples of different specimens on slides under a microscope. The kids were fascinated by a pregnant pinworm that she found in the blood of a four-year-old child. The high school students gravitate more toward slides of bacteria.

“Some of their questions catch me by surprise,” Ms. Strauss said. One student asked what was her biggest mistake. She explained what could happen if safety controls were not in place such as mislabeling the patients’ names on specimens or blood samples. Most of all, Ms. Strauss is delighted that she followed her aunt’s advice and now can show others the benefits of working in the laboratory.

To learn more about laboratory careers or to search jobs, visit ASCP's Career Center.