9 Tips for Success in Medical Laboratory Science

A year ago I was eagerly and nervously awaiting my first day of the Medical Laboratory Science program. Today I got to meet the new intake of Med Lab students, and it all came back. The excitement, the questions, the uncertainty, the fears. So with that in mind, and now that I’ve had time to reflect on my first year, I thought I’d compile a list of tips for success at BCIT.

  1. Work hard. Very hard.

BCIT is a tough grind. If you don’t put in the hours, you may not make it.

To give you an idea, we put in around 30 hours a week at school. That’s just classes and labs, studying aside. On average, I put another 30 hours a week into studying, assignments, and preparing for labs.

Much will be asked of you. At some point, you will think you have given everything you’ve got. Then it will get harder, and you’ll realize you were wrong.

  1. Make friends, support each other

Having a support group while attending this program is essential. There will be moments where you’re so overwhelmed, you’ll need a shoulder to cry on. Or at least pass out on. Plus, you will learn much more by seeing how others understand the subject matter.

  1. Don’t give up

There will be days you think you can’t get out of bed. Where you’ve been giving 110% for too long and you’re on the verge of burnout. The feelings will come and go. No matter what, keep going. Don’t give up, because you know what you’ve chosen to do is worth it.

  1. Strategize your study time

It’s normal to gravitate toward a couple subjects that interest you more than the others, or that are easier. But make sure to spread your studying across all subjects. Know your weaknesses and don’t avoid working on them.

Make sure to give everything you’ve got early on. If you don’t, finals hit hard, and it’s quite hard to recover if you haven’t done as well on the midterms. We don’t get a break between our last class and finals. We learn new material right up until the Friday before finals. Then we have a weekend to study. A final a day, sometimes two, all crammed into one week. Keep up.

  1. Pay attention in Level 1

You are being taught what you are for a reason; much of it will be built upon in Level 2, which is much, much, much, much, much harder. Did I mention Level 2 is much harder? There is no time for catching up, so putting your maximum effort into Level 1 will pay off.

  1. Bring your memorization A-game

There is a lot to memorize. Unfortunately, there is no way around this. I found using visualization techniques worked well for much of the content. The amount of information you’ll encounter is staggering, so the better you can remember things, the further ahead you’ll be.

  1. Let go of being a perfectionist when learning

This career attracts perfectionists. Striving for high grades comes with the territory. It’s a good thing, but in the learning environment an unhealthy focus on good grades can become a problem.

For example, early in the program I would freeze up in labs because I didn’t know how to proceed on small details. But I wanted to do things perfectly, so I would agonize over and delay decisions, which would ultimately get me behind. It’s funny how being a perfectionist in that environment really backfired on me. Freeing myself to make small mistakes meant that, even though I didn’t achieve a perfect grade, I could accurately identify what needed work and what I truly understood, all while saving myself a lot of stress. Plus, mistakes are excellent teachers; we remember our mistakes.

  1. Keep your sense of humour

I am lucky to be part of a set that can laugh even when things are tough. Once enough people get entrenched in negative thinking it becomes reinforcing, and group dynamics can spiral. I’m not saying you can’t acknowledge that things are hard – we do all the time – but bringing playfulness and lightheartedness to everyday interactions with the teachers and your classmates diminishes stress.

  1. Keep the end goal in mind

This is an amazing career. The pain and personal sacrifice are worth it. You will be working every day to make a difference. And you won’t be bored, because this technology-driven profession is always evolving.

7 thoughts on “9 Tips for Success in Medical Laboratory Science

  1. Thank you Laurie!
    Very encouraging, even for an old Gaffer like me. I wish I had this kind of thoughtful encouragement when I in my learning years

  2. Hi Laurie,

    Thanks for the great tips! They’ll be very helpful for sure :). I do have a question regarding one of the points you mentioned–that level 2 is HARD. I’ve been hearing that a lot and I was wondering what aspects of the levels above 1 make it that much harder? Is it because the material becomes dense and difficult, there is just a lot more work to do, or a combination of both?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi S,

      Thanks for reading!

      I would say that the volume makes it harder than the difficulty of the content. Although the content IS challenging, it was mostly a matter of remembering it all. Many of the midterms required a lot of detail, which is hard to hang onto all the way into finals.

      We also had practical exams around midterm season, which fell around midterm season. So the work never lets up. Almost every week you’re studying for a big test of some sort!

      Are you currently in Level 1?

  3. Hi Laurie,

    Thanks for the prompt reply and answering the question I’ve had for ages, I really appreciate it! It’s good that they’re keeping us on our toes, no doubt it will be a stressful time.

    Yes, I’m currently in level 1!

    • That’s great! Welcome to med lab then 🙂

      They do keep us on our toes! One of the things that I keep in mind is knowing that many others have done it before me. It is doable, even when the stress makes it feel like it isn’t!

  4. Hi, Lauri
    Thank for your advice, I start level one Med Lab in January 2018. I’m stressing out about the work load already and I haven’t even started yet. LOL
    I have been out of school for quite awhile, so I’m a little worried about keeping up with the work load.

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