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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

Pathology and Laboratory Medicine finds qualified job candidates close to home

Elenora Sanchez © UC Regents
Eleonora Sanchez is among the newest graduates of the Clinical Laboratory Scientist Training Program.

May 2, 2012

When the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine has openings for clinical laboratory scientists, it frequently finds qualified candidates close to home, in the department's own Clinical Laboratory Scientist Training Program.

The department has good reason to seek new employees from its own training program. The program's graduates historically score in the top 1 percent nationally on their board-certification examinations, and more than 60 percent of the clinical laboratory scientists employed at UC Davis Health System received their training in the program.

The most recent graduating class of the training program continues the trend. All five graduates of the program's last 12-month session, which concluded in March, will be hired by the department.

Among those new hires is Eleonora Sanchez, who began working for the department in the hospital's blood bank on April 30.

"What interested me was my love of microbiology," Sanchez said of her motivation to enroll in the training program. "I find it very interesting to receive a sample, grow the bacteria, identify it and even be able to tell the physician what antibiotic can be prescribed. It satisfies my curiosity and sense of discovery."

Sanchez said her first exposure to the field of clinical laboratory science occurred soon after she graduated from UCLA and worked for Idexx Laboratories, a clinical laboratory for veterinary medicine in West Sacramento. Prior to enrolling in the Clinical Laboratory Scientist Training Program, Sanchez had been working at the UC Davis MIND Institute as a staff research associate, conducting research on gene expression in fragile X patients.

"This program really prepares you. All of the specialist student coordinators do an awesome job of guiding and teaching students through a tough year, and every department is well-structured to accommodate students. — Eleonora Sanchez

Clinical laboratory scientists perform the most complex levels of laboratory testing. They must have a bachelor's degree and complete a full year of didactic and experiential education. They also must pass a combined state and national licensing examination before being eligible to work in a laboratory.

The UC Davis training program consists of lectures on Wednesdays and hands-on training in the field alongside current laboratory technicians.

"I really love that about the program," Sanchez said about the ratio of time devoted to teaching theory and practical experience. "This program really prepares you. All of the specialist student coordinators do an awesome job of guiding and teaching students through a tough year, and every department is well-structured to accommodate students. There is a super-huge team and everybody is really helpful."

Kendra Harris, education coordinator for the Clinical Laboratory Scientist Training program, said, "The educational program is grateful to the laboratory staff, all of whom participate in the teaching of the CLS students, while simultaneously performing their job duties."

UC Davis Health System has had a clinical laboratory scientist educational program since 1942, and has graduated about 400 laboratory professionals.

About 70 percent of health-care decisions are affected by clinical laboratory testing, the primary means for determining a patient's health. Laboratories also are responsible for monitoring patient medication, screening the blood supply and assessing whether a patient has improving or declining health.

Clinical Laboratory Science Training Program

Clinical Laboratory Science (CLS) is a profession that combines the challenges and rewards of medicine and science with service to humanity. The CLS Training Program at UC Davis Health System provides trainees with 12-month clinical laboratory science training. After receiving the graduation certificate and successfully passing the California licensure examination, the CLS trainee will receive a California license and be eligible to work in a California clinical laboratory. Click here to learn more about the program.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 6.8 billion tests are performed annually in more than 172,000 laboratories in the country. The UC Davis Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine's approximately 250 staff members perform more than 4.5 million tests.

Currently, there is a severe shortage of qualified laboratory personnel in the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2014, the U.S. will need 68,000 clinical laboratory workers to fill new positions, plus another 81,000 incumbents to replace retiring employees. In California alone, the need for laboratory personnel is expected to increase by 559 percent.

There are two primary factors contributing to the ongoing and expanding shortage: retirement of current employees and an expansion of diagnostic tests available.