Even before COVID-19, the need for medical laboratory scientists was growing “way above the national average.” With the pandemic, the demand has skyrocketed, an expert says.

“Medical lab science is a critical, though often hidden profession,” said Rachel Hulse, director and assistant professor for the medical laboratory science program at Idaho State University.

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Medical lab scientists are sometimes referred to as “the doctor’s doctor,” Hulse tells EastIdahoNews.com, because they assist primary care providers in disease diagnosis.

“Every tube of blood that’s drawn, every body tissue, every urine or other kind of body fluid … that might come out of the body, we’re the ones who are running the tests and the analyses on those to try to figure out what’s going on,” she said.

Before the pandemic, the medical laboratory science profession, also referred to as clinical laboratory science, was projected by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN) as the life science job that is most in demand, with 11 percent growth expected over the next decade.

“We actually have a huge workforce shortage, similar to what you hear about in nursing,” Hulse explained. “The number of graduates … (nationally) can’t fill the number of jobs that we have, and that’s exacerbated now, by COVID, because there’s an increased need for testing capacity.”

Due to the high demand, 100 percent of ISU graduates in the program are employed in the field or in a closely related field immediately after earning their degree, Hulse says.

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ISU’s medical laboratory science program can be taken online. Click here for more information.