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A cytogenetics technologist typically works inside laboratories within medical facilities and hospitals. He is the scientist responsible for analyzing and evaluating chromosomes to determine the presence of diseases or to help diagnose other serious health conditions. This type of technologist also keeps accurate records of findings, researches the structure of chromosomes and maintains a sterile laboratory.
While the specific job duties of a cytogenetics technologist may vary depending on the laboratory for which he works and the research being conducted, he typically analyzes chromosomes and cells to diagnose and treat diseases, such as hematological disorders, fertility problems and congenital birth defects. Technologists use different techniques and a variety of instruments to prepare, examine and evaluate chromosomes, including culturing procedures, slides, computer software programs and microscopes. A technologist in this field can use these instruments to count the number of chromosomes in order to detect abnormalities.
After the cytogenetics technologist completes his analysis of the chromosomes, he must summarize the results as accurately as possible and maintain precise records. When performing an evaluation or an analysis, he keeps detailed notes of his observations to aid him in writing a summary after he is finished. The report is then provided to medical professionals for review so they can evaluate the condition of the patient and keep track of his progress. Along with record keeping, a cytogenetics technology may also be required to keep track of equipment, cleaning supplies and instruments, and order new products as necessary.
A cytogenetics technologist may also be responsible for researching a certain condition or cell structure to learn more about how cells and chromosomes function. After he completes his research, he can use the information he gathered to write a report or a paper to be included in a journal or other research publication. If a cytogenetics technologist discovers a significant fact or theory that might require further testing, he may present and demonstrate his findings at a conference or meeting with other technologists, scientists and researchers in order to get further feedback and input.
Another job duty of a cytogenetics technologist is to keep a clean, sterile working environment. He may be required to wipe down equipment, thoroughly clean slides and test tubes, and even wash the floors and walls after each analysis. Cytogenetics technologists are taught early in their careers to wash their hands thoroughly and to use rubber gloves before using equipment or handling samples from a patient's body.
As a practicing cytogenetics technologist in the U.S. for 25 years, it's nice to see an actual attempt at defining our profession. In the U.S., we are a small specialized group of clinical scientists, numbering less than 3000 (vs. 650,000 physicians and 3.1 million nurses). Our pay grade is roughly equivalent to other medical technology professions (e.g., MLT) but can vary widely depending on geographic location.
Training programs are few- A B.S. in biology or allied field is required. Training often occurs "on-the job", as there are few university training programs in cytogenetics technology.
Job prospects are good, as we are a rare commodity. But labs are concentrated in high population urban areas. The West and Northeast pay almost fairly, whereas the South and Midwest pay slave wages for such a highly complex and rare profession.
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