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What does a Medical Laboratory Technician do?

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  • Written By: Emma Lloyd
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 29 October 2016
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A medical laboratory technician typically works in a laboratory, carrying out diagnostic and other kinds of tests that provide important medical information about people with injuries, illnesses, and medical conditions. The role of the medical laboratory technician is a demanding one that requires both general and specific skills.

Regardless of the type of laboratory in which they work, the medical laboratory technician tends to have a fairly similar type of job description, although the types of tests they routinely carry out often differ depending on the specific nature of their job. Medical tech jobs typically involve tasks such as preparing patient samples for examination, testing blood and other body fluids for the presence of bacteria and viruses, screening blood for diagnostic markers of disease, examining cells and tissues for signs of disease, and testing bacterial samples for antibiotic sensitivity.

One thing that may differentiate these types of medical jobs is the size of the lab in which an individual works. For example, someone working as a clinical laboratory technician in a smaller laboratory is more likely to have a fairly general job description, and will probably carry out several different types of tests as part of a normal day. In contrast, a medical laboratory technician working in a large laboratory is more likely to specialize in one or more types of diagnostic or analysis tests, or in a particular scientific field.

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Medical laboratory technicians have several options for specialization. Microbiology typically concentrates on diagnosis of diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites, while immunology involves testing patient samples for signs that indicate immune function or dysfunction. Hematology is the study of blood, and a technician working in this specialty is usually involved in testing patient blood samples for signs of disease and blood disorders. Still others specialize in histology or cytology, and concentrate on examining tissues and cells for signs of disease.

Wherever they work, and however they choose to specialize, a medical laboratory technician should possess certain skills and personality traits in order to succeed at the job. Excellent problem-solving and analytical skills are extremely important. The ability to concentrate on repetitive tasks and follow strict protocols without losing focus, good motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and good record-keeping skills, are also vital for a clinical laboratory scientist. Finally, the ability to multi-task is crucial, because people working in medical lab tech jobs will often have to carry out several different types of tasks during the same time frame.

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jennythelib
Post 3

Another thing to be aware with medical laboratory technician jobs is that you can't be grossed out! If you don't want to work with patients because it seems gross, this is not the job for you.

I had a friend who did the minor level lab work in an OB's office. So there was a lot of pee. Not only that, they had these rotating cabinets. The patient would be in the cup and then spin the cabinet to send the cup of urine into the laboratory behind the bathroom.

The problem was that then sometimes would spin too fast. And then the cup would spill. Lovely. Then not only did they have to clean it up, but

some poor pregnant lady had to pee in a cup again. (Actually, the pregnant ones probably had to go again anyway, but the non-pregnant ones who just needed to be checked for a bladder infection or something probably didn't care for it!)
JessicaLynn
Post 2

@Monika - Yes, there are a lot of behind the scenes careers in the medical field that are great for science minded people who aren't interesting in having contact with patients.

One thing about working as a medical laboratory technician is that you need to be careful not to make a mistake. If you do, the results for the affected patients could be disastrous!

Monika
Post 1

One of my neighbors is a medical laboratory technician. She has a bachelors degree in biology as well as a masters degree.

She tells me she spend most of her day preparing slides and looking at them under the microscope. Her biggest complaint about her job is that her eyes get tired after awhile. Other than that, she really enjoys her job.

She doesn't have to have any contact with customers/patients. This job would be perfect for someone who wants to work in the medical field but doesn't want to deal with patients!

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