Introduction to the Medical Laboratory

Learn key skills needed to become a medical laboratory professional and play a vital role in the healthcare system.

6 Weeks / 24 Course Hrs
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Course code: iml

This course will introduce you to working in a medical laboratory. You will learn how to perform common tests in each laboratory department, as well as specimen collection, handling, and processing. You will gain also key skills for working with laboratory instruments and computer systems and how they work with laboratory professionals to improve quality and efficiency.

What you will learn

  • The purpose of medical laboratory testing in patient care
  • Regulatory and accreditation bodies and their purpose
  • Reports used to deliver results of medical laboratory tests and procedures
  • Safety procedures used to control infection and provide a clean laboratory environment
  • Medical terminology and word elements related to the medical laboratory
  • Identify equipment used to perform basic medical laboratory testing and procedures

How you will benefit

  • Recognize different medical laboratory departments and their areas of expertise
  • Recall skill requirements and career growth opportunities for medical laboratory personnel
  • Explain common medical laboratory procedures and tests

How the course is taught

  • Instructor-led or self-paced online course
  • 6 Weeks or 3 Months access
  • 24 course hours

In this lesson, you'll discover that the information provided by the medical laboratory has a profound impact on patient care. You will start building your foundation of how laboratory tests are an essential component used in the diagnosis, management, and monitoring of diseases and conditions. You will also examine the five different settings where laboratory tests are performed, the operational structure of the laboratory, and the personnel who specialize in working in a medical laboratory.

This lesson will take a closer look at medical laboratory careers and examine the personal qualities and educational requirements of the people who thrive in these fields. You'll also discover the personal attributes, job responsibilities, work environment, educational requirements, salaries, and job outlook you will want to know about before pursuing this profession. You'll also examine the importance of collaborating with other members of the health-care team in providing patients with optimal care.

In this lesson, you will learn about medical terminology and its importance in the medical laboratory. You will be able to break down medical terms by their basic elements and learn about the combining forms. You will also see commonly used abbreviations and acronyms that facilitate communication between the laboratory and medical personnel.

In the Core Laboratory Departments lesson, you'll continue learning medical terminology and explore how the laboratory is organized and learn the functionality of the various departments. This lesson will provide an overview of the core, or most common, laboratory departments and the testing they perform. It will also define the importance of correctly receiving and processing samples as they arrive at the laboratory.

In this lesson, you will learn about more departments in the laboratory and how they assist in the diagnosis of diseases and infections. The departments discussed tend to employ lab personnel that work only in one specific department. The skills and experience essential to perform the tests in these departments often take many years to obtain.

This lesson will give you a comprehensive look at safety in the laboratory. Several agencies dictate safe practices that health-care employees should follow. You'll explore the recommended standards that are in place to help reduce the spread of infections to keep health-care employees, patients, and visitors safe.

In this lesson, you will learn about the equipment used in the laboratory. Various equipment is used to collect the samples, to prepare the samples for testing, and for storage of samples. You will also examine other equipment that is used to prepare the reagents and chemicals needed for testing.

This lesson will focus on following the pre-analytical steps to ensure that a quality specimen is collected for testing. Laboratory results are only as good as the sample collected. Learning the role of specimen collection in the overall patient-care system is crucial. You will explore the equipment used for blood collection and common problems associated with specimen collection in general.

This lesson will be a refresher of lessons 4 and 5 with some added information about testing performed in various laboratory departments. These tests have been used for many years and have proven to help with diagnosis and treatment. As you progress through this lesson, you will learn more about the tests and why they are ordered.

In this lesson, you will learn more about phlebotomy and its importance in ensuring quality specimens are submitted for testing. This lesson will take a deeper look at the specimen collection process, the equipment used, the importance of collection tube order, and the pre-analytical responsibilities of the phlebotomist. Also, because phlebotomists are among the few laboratory employees who actually see a patient, you'll learn about the traits and characteristics of a good phlebotomist necessary for that interaction.

This lesson will focus on reporting laboratory results. You will learn about electronic medical records and laboratory information systems. You will also examine the various requirements for laboratory requisitions, results reporting, and reporting critical laboratory values.

In this lesson, you'll explore what a laboratory must demonstrate to be able to perform tests in an acceptable way. Doctors and patients must be able to trust the results. Therefore, medical laboratory testing is held to very high state and federal regulatory agency standards, and you'll take an in-depth look at some of these agencies.

Lynda Kelly

Lynda Kelly, MT (ASCP), has eighteen years' experience working and managing various medical laboratories in hospitals, physician offices, and reference laboratories. Her expertise spans microbiology, chemistry, hematology, coagulation, and urinalysis testing. She also has experience with regulatory agency compliance, safety in the laboratory, policy and procedure writing and training employees. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science and a Master of Business in Communications.

Instructor Interaction: The instructor looks forward to interacting with learners in the online moderated discussion area to share their expertise and answer any questions you may have on the course content.


There are no prerequisites to take this course.


Hardware Requirements:

  • This course can be taken on either a PC or Mac.

Software Requirements:

  • PC: Windows 8 or later.
  • Mac: macOS 10.6 or later.
  • Browser: The latest version of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox are preferred. Microsoft Edge and Safari are also compatible.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  • Software must be installed and fully operational before the course begins.


  • Email capabilities and access to a personal email account.

Instructional Material Requirements:

The instructional materials required for this course are included in enrollment and will be available online.

Instructor-Led: A new session of each course begins each month. Please refer to the session start dates for scheduling.​

Self-Paced: Your course begins immediately after you enroll.​

Instructor-Led: Once a course session starts, two lessons will be released each week for the 6 week duration of your course. You will have access to all previously released lessons until the course ends. You will interact with the instructor through the online discussion area. There are no live sessions or online meetings with the instructor.

Self-Paced: You have 3 months of access to the course. After enrolling, you can learn and complete the course at your own pace, within the allotted access period. You will have the opportunity to interact with other students in the online discussion area.

Instructor-Led: The interactive discussion area for each lesson automatically closes two weeks after each lesson is released, so you're encouraged to complete each lesson within two weeks of its release. However, you will have access to all lessons from the time they are released until the course ends.​

Self-Paced: There is no time limit to complete each lesson, other than completing all lessons within the allotted access period. Discussion areas for each lesson are open for the entire duration of the course.

Instructor-Led: Students enrolled in a six-week online class benefit from a one-time, 10-day extension for each course. No further extensions can be provided beyond these 10 days.​

Self-Paced: Because this course is self-paced, no extensions will be granted after the start of your enrollment.