October 25, 2021
(COCONUT CREEK, Fla.) — Cesar Ballesteros, a medical laboratory scientist at the Regional Memorial hospital in Hollywood, Florida, sheds some light on the significant work they do that most individuals are not aware of. Ballesteros graduated from the University of Central Florida (UCF) with a degree in biomedical sciences. He then went on to Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and obtained his clinical lab scientist certificate. He sat down with The Click to explain his role at the hospital and describe what a day in the life of a scientist is like.
This interview was edited for clarity and length.
The Click: What does a day in the lab look like for you?
Ballesteros: Because I work the second shift of the day— 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.—we have three benches that we work in. We have “the corner” where we have all the rapid testing that just keeps coming in, and then we have the urine and blood bench. If you’re in the corner, you’re pretty much working with all the COVID-19 tests, the flu, respiratory panels, and stools.
If you’re in the urine bench, you come in and use the Petri dishes and pretty much are going through these plates all day. We then try to play around with the bacteria to identify down to the species to try to see if it’s, for example, E. coli. Then run another panel to check what antibodies it’s resistant to and which one it’s susceptible to. Then the test is released to the doctor, so then the doctor decides what to do from there.
The Click: Many people do not understand what a medical scientist does. Why do you think that is?
Ballesteros: I think it mostly has to do with the fact that people don’t even know we exist. I mean, we don’t have any face-to-face interaction with patients. I didn’t even know that this job existed till the semester I was going to graduate from UCF. I went to the lab because my manager had shown me around back when I was a student, and that’s when I found out about the program at FGCU.
The Click: What misconceptions are there about working as a medical laboratory scientist?
Ballesteros: That we actually make good money. We’re so underpaid with the amount of work that we do. It’s ridiculous. In my opinion, you shouldn’t go into this field for the money because if you are, then you’re not going to be happy. Also, that we’re antisocial because we work in a lab because there are really all types of people working there, introverts and extroverts.
The Click: What risks do you think medical laboratory scientists face?
Ballesteros: Oh, a lot. There’s a lot of risks because we’re working with needles and blood. So you can definitely stick yourself and expose yourself to HIV, hepatitis, COVID-19, or any of these blood-borne diseases.
The Click: What advice would you give an aspiring medical laboratory scientist?
Ballesteros: Be open-minded; so don’t just focus on one specialty, look into other fields because I believe that can open the doors to other jobs. If you can work in microbiology and hematology, you’ll have more opportunities of working at other labs.