Some Interesting Applications in the Medical Laboratory Science Program

Blood. That’s what we are learning about these days. I suppose for the sake of this blog post, I should elaborate. We have learned about hematology and hemostasis at this point and all about the many, many things that can go wrong from conception to death in blood. From clotting disorders to leukemia and anemia, there are hundreds of problems one may encounter. Having looked at many of these peripheral blood smears during my waking hours, you may imagine how upset I was to wake up from a dream where I was looking at a blood smear. However, I don’t quite know if this is a real application of my learning, so maybe I’ll explain a few more examples that are a bit more interesting.

The other day, my roommate was watching the TV show Grey’s Anatomy, and one physician was reading off laboratory results to another doctor, stating that "PT and APTT were normal" and "D-dimer was negative." I couldn’t resist interrupting to let my roommate know that I now knew what all that babble meant. In hemostasis, we tested for PT and APTT using a semiautomatic coagulation machine. We then tested whether the issue was a clotting factor related to inhibitors. We tested for clotting-factor disorders with 50:50 mixtures with normal plasma. I was just excited to know the "behind-the-scenes" stuff that was happening in the television show.

In hematology, we spent our time mostly under the microscope again. Our eyes were peeled for unusual cells, but this round, we looked for white blood cell abnormalities and for bone marrow problems. Unusual cells and early cell identification began to overtake all of our time. We also got to prepare bone marrow slides, which is trickier than it sounds, as we had to use older samples. Additionally, we learned about the process of drawing bone marrow samples.

I learned that I really understand more about medicine than I thought when watching "doctor shows." My newfound knowledge is giving me the power to critique medical shows and know some of the things that they are talking about, which is pretty cool. However, I now also find myself slightly disappointed that they never mention the laboratory staff, and, often, the doctors themselves do the lab work in these shows. Oh, well—it makes for entertaining TV, I suppose.

For my own personal know-how, though, being able to recognize more and more enzymes and proteins and hormones that are tested in blood makes me feel accomplished and grateful for the other class I’m in, Clinical Chemistry. As many tests and baseline screenings of health are encompassed in this field, I find the information not only useful to my career but also to my personal life.

I’ll sign off with this: I appreciate everything I’m learning as I know it will lead me to helping people and helping health care providers reach a diagnosis. I also, however, appreciate the other smaller applications it is having so far in my life.

Elizabeth Atneosen

Elizabeth Atneosen is a recent college graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. She is now pursuing certification in Medical Laboratory Science at Mayo Clinic. Elizabeth is originally from Woodbury Minnesota, and she loves learning new things, reading, and spending time outdoors hiking, kayaking, and swimming.