Senator Dawn Euer represents Newport and Jamestown

Medical laboratory science practitioners are the behind-the-scenes professionals who determine whether patients have conditions ranging from high cholesterol to cancer, giving their doctors critical information to help determine treatment.

But in 2015, Rhode Island stopped licensing them amid an effort to reduce the number of professions requiring licensing in the state, eliminating standards that ensure they are well-trained and are up-to-date on all the latest requirements of their job.

Sen. Dawn Euer is proposing to bring back those licensing requirements at the request of practicing Rhode Island medical laboratory science practitioners who say its absence threatens the high quality of a field that is critical to public health.

“This bill addresses an important public health and safety issue. Everyone who has ever had a blood or urine test or a throat swab depends upon the work of medical laboratory professionals. They have to know how to do their job with accuracy and precision, because their work gives people important information that determines their medical diagnoses and treatments. There should be standards to ensure that all individuals who perform these tests are well-trained and able to perform the duties expected of them,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Middletown) in a prepared statement.

The bill (2018-S 2230) would re-establish licensing for medical laboratory technologists, medical laboratory technicians, medical histologic technicians and cytotechnologists and sets standards for each that include minimum education and training requirements. Licenses would need to be renewed every two years, and renewals would require that minimum continuing education requirements be met. The requirements are all the same as they were before the law was repealed in 2015.

Senator Euer introduced the legislation at the request of a constituent who is a medical laboratory practitioner and is part of a coalition of laboratory professionals formed to advocate for the reinstatement of the licensing requirement.

Also part of that coalition is Maddie Josephs of Rumford, a professor and department chair at the Community College of Rhode Island who is a board member of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science.

“Every day, all day, medical laboratory professionals are hard at work behind the scenes, providing vital information to physicians so that a proper diagnosis can be made and a correct course of treatment can be carried out. The diagnosis made by a physician is only as good as the information he or she is receiving from the lab. Keep in mind that lab professionals work independently to provide these results,” said Josephs in a prepared statement, speaking in her role as a board member of the society. “The fact that nurses, radiographers, physical, occupational and respiratory therapists are licensed, and lab professionals are not is simply nonsensical.  Rhode Islanders have the right to the highest quality of healthcare. Licensure for medical laboratory professionals needs to be reinstated to ensure safe and quality healthcare for our citizens.”

The bill, which was introduced Feb. 1, is cosponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket) and Sen. William J. Conley (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket). Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) has introduced the bill in the House (2018-H 7323).