Saturday, July 28, 2012

My Daughter, A Medical Laboratory Scientist

It was just about three months ago that I was thrilled that my daughter was taking her last final. Then, two weeks later, I blogged about her graduating with honors. I thought, at the time, that I couldn’t be more proud of her. She has spent the past four years working long hours and studying thick textbooks and it seemed like the four years would never end. She studied night and day, weekends, and took classes for three summers. I know how hard she worked. I was right there by her side. I helped her whenever I could by proofing papers, researching topics and even reading and learning about some of the things she needed to know so we could discuss them. Anything to save her a little time here and there. I baked her brownies and cupcakes, and made sure we took her out whenever her schedule permitted. Trips to the mall were far and few between, but we seized the moment when we could to try to give her a break from studying.

Yesterday, my daughter took the MLS ASCP exam for her New York State License. She studied for two and a half months for it. We had all the review books home before she even graduated. She reviewed all the material for seven or eight areas of laboratory science and answered practice questions daily. She was determined to try to pass it the first time around. I have to admit I was a nervous wreck yesterday. Not so much because I didn’t believe she could pass, because she worked harder than anyone I know to make sure of it. But, there is a certain amount of luck involved too. The 100 possible questions of the exam are taken from an endless data base and randomly selected by a computer. The amount of information that is required for the exam seems like a bottomless pit. One "review" book was 700 pages or more long. One never knows which of the thousands of questions the computer will generate for your exam, or if they will be in your strong areas or weak areas. All you know is that, at the end, it tells you if you passed or failed, when you hit the “End Exam” button. And yesterday, when my daughter hit that button, she PASSED! 

When she called me and said, “I’m done,” there was a certain lilt in her voice that I hadn’t heard in such a long time. I knew she had passed, but I had to ask. She said the words I was praying to hear, “I passed.” True to herself, she was still modest in her achievement. “I don’t know how I passed, it was hard. I won’t say anything until the results come in the mail, just in case.” That’s my daughter. No "woo hoo's," "no boasting or bragging, just quiet modesty. There are no words to describe how proud I am of her at this moment. And I am so happy for her. To celebrate, she only asked to watch a movie last night with her sister…a movie on demand at that. She enjoys the simple things in life and she loves her sister.

My daughter has chosen a field where she will make a difference in this world. I really never thought about the people who work in the laboratories of all the hospitals. Laboratories are open and working 24/7. The technologists have to go through a vigorous college program in which they might as well be majoring in biology and chemistry together. It’s very difficult. Their last year of college requires attending lectures for two eight hour days a week plus three full days at a hospital laboratory for 18 credits a semester. They are tested every week in one subject and/or another, and they have eight to nine subjects to cover, all pertaining to lab work. There are no pass/fail grades allowed. There is a minimum passing grade of 70 in every subject to stay in the program. Once they manage to graduate they have to prepare for their licensing examination or they will not likely get hired. Out of thousands of students at my daughter’s college, only 13 graduated with a BS degree in Medical Technology. It’s a very small group compared to other majors. Some dropped out because it was too difficult. The number of graduates of all the colleges in the country only fill about 50% of the demand for all the positions open. Once you get your license you are supposed to be a “hot commodity.” But it sure takes a lot to get to that point…and my daughter is there!

I developed a new respect for laboratory technologists in these past four years. We always hear people praise their doctors and nurses. These are the people they “see” caring for them. But, behind the scenes are the unknown laboratory scientists, running the tests on bodily fluids and tissues, who are actually the backbone of the medical field. Without them, doctors and nurses would not be able to do their jobs. It is from these test results that doctors can make or confirm their diagnoses; that they can prescribe medication and treatment that will ease symptoms or cure illness; that they can determine a prognosis for how long the illness might last or how it will progress. I never thought about that before, but having been down this road with my daughter, I am very much aware of it now.

My daughter went on an interview a few weeks ago, it was her very first one, and nothing came of it, unfortunately. Maybe they didn’t want to take the risk that she might not pass her exam, maybe they found someone with experience who had their license. I really think it is their loss. I know my daughter will make an outstanding contribution to the hospital who hires her. She is a hard worker, a fast learner and she is committed to doing her best. Next week she has an interview at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. That is the hospital that has taken care of me for the past eight years. I can’t help but think how fitting it would be if she were to be hired there. It would be an opportunity for her to “give back” for all the care I have received and to help others who have been stricken with this disease. I hope this is part of God’s plan for her, He has been watching out for her every step of the way. He knows how special she is and so do I.


  1. Congratulations to your daughter. I am a medical laboratory scientist for 6 years now and love what I do. I had a freind say we are the brains of the medical industry:) I find it frustrating when people don't even have a clue of what it takes to get into this field. I have had nurses act surprised when they find out you have to have a bachelors degree to do this job.

  2. Thank you for your kind words. from what I have learned, the clinical scientists are the backbone of the medical field. Their work impacts on diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and so many other things. A doctor would not be able to do his job without the test results that come from the lab. I hope your peers and supervisors show you the appreciate you deserve!

  3. Congratulations to your daughter. Because not many people know about laboratory personnel, I wrote a memoir about my 20 years working as an MT ASCP.
    “Conquering Challenges – A Working Mother’s Story” by Elizabeth Blake, MT ASCP

    It’s funny, poignant, heartwarming, inspirational, and occasionally dramatic. Medical memoirs have always been written by nurses or doctors or even paramedics. This is the first time one has been written from a laboratory point of view!!!!

    Here is a direct link to the book on Amazon:

    Below, please find a review from a respected Hall of Fame Top Reviewer on Amazon:

    “Elizabeth Blake is a very talented writer who effectively captures moments in at times poetic prose. This story gives you a very good idea of what it feels like to be working as a lab tech in a hospital setting. I had no idea this job had so many opportunities.

    Elizabeth Blake has really lived a very exciting life. Along the way she learned how to do all sorts of things that assisted doctors and nurses in the hospitals she worked in. What I especially liked about this book was how Elizabeth Blake conveys a sense of urgency. To be honest reading this book was like watching a reality show with real-life situations and challenges.

    This book is filled with medical emergencies and complications. As time ticks by lab technicians have to quickly get doctors the answers they need to make life-saving decisions.

    The stories of Hawaii in this book are also especially beautiful. Elizabeth Blake is a very adventurous woman who has lived in many places and I'm so glad she wrote this book. It has given me a new perception of people working in the medical field.

    I will never think of an emergency room in the same way again. After reading this book you will have a newfound respect for everyone working in the medical field.”

    ~The Rebecca Review

  4. Congrats to your daughter! I am a student going to school for my MLS degree right now. I am doing my clinical rotations right now for blood bank and I love it! I have one year left before I graduate and take the ASCP exam for the state of Arizona. I am so nervous! It sounds like your daughter put so much effort into this and she is a hard worker! Med techs are so important and most people don't recognize that there are people in the basement that actually help the doctors and nurses diagnose the patients. Congrats again!