Medical Laboratory Technologists
On the Job
Medical laboratory technologists conduct complex tests to help detect, diagnose, and treat diseases.
We all know how important our blood is. If someone suffers a cut, the first thing to do is to stop the bleeding. However, drawing a small amount of blood for medical testing can tell us many things about our health. Blood tests can count blood cells (such as platelets and red blood cells) and analyze cholesterol and glucose levels. Blood tests can also tell us how well the thyroid, liver, and kidneys are working. Chances are, at some point in your life you'll have some blood drawn for a medical test. The person who does the analysis is usually a medical laboratory technologist.Physicians use laboratory tests to help them figure out what is wrong with patients. Lab technologists run tests using samples of body fluids, cells, or tissues. Blood tests are especially common. Technologists study blood samples to count the number of cells and determine the blood type. This is especially useful if a patient needs a blood transfusion. Other tests are commonly run on urine or spinal fluid.
Sometimes technologists use samples to prepare slides. The slides are then examined under a microscope. Technologists also run tests to chemically analyze samples. In all cases, they look to see if the samples are abnormal or diseased. They try to find and identify organisms, such as bacteria, that would indicate an infection. For other tests, technologists grow cell cultures. They make sure cells are grown in the right temperature and medium, such as agar. After tests are run, technologists record and evaluate results. They regularly discuss the results with doctors and researchers. They also talk to pathologists if abnormal cells are found.
Medical technologists use several types of equipment to run tests. Several machines are computer-controlled. Technologists also make sure that equipment is maintained and calibrated to ensure accurate results. Technologists may set up and run programs that make sure results are accurate. This includes regular cleaning, maintenance, and calibration of lab equipment. It also includes setting up proper procedures for running tests.
In general, medical technologists perform more complex lab tests and often supervise other laboratory workers, including assistants and technicians. Some technologists specialize. Blood bank technologists determine correct blood types for transfusions. Microbiology technologists identify bacteria and other disease organisms. In some labs, technologists conduct research under the supervision of medical researchers.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Test samples of biological materials, such as body fluids, tissues, and cells. Look for abnormalities or disease organisms.
- Evaluate test results. Enter findings into computers.
- Select and prepare specimens and media for cell culture.
- Grow cell cultures using appropriate media and environmental conditions.
- Prepare slides for examination.
- Set up, adjust, clean, and maintain lab equipment.
- Study blood samples to determine the type and number of cells.
- Talk to doctors, researchers, and family members about test results.
- Set up programs that ensure accuracy of all testing.
- May supervise and train lab assistants, technicians, and other technologists.
- May conduct research under the supervision of medical researchers.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Use computers.
- Document and record information.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Process information.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Analyze data or information.
- Repair and maintain electronic equipment.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Control machines and processes.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Teach others.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a medium level of social interaction. They spend time talking to doctors and other lab workers, but spend time alone running tests.
- Communicate by telephone, in person, and e-mail on a daily basis. They also use letters and memos, but less often.
- Are on occasion placed in conflict situations. Medical personnel may disagree on the interpretation of test results.
- Are somewhat responsible for the health and safety of others.
- Are responsible for the results of other workers.
- Regularly work as part of a team.
- Always work indoors.
- Are exposed to diseases, infections, and contaminants daily. They wear safety gear, such as latex gloves and surgical masks, to protect themselves.
- Are exposed to contaminants and hazardous conditions on a weekly basis.
- May on occasion be exposed to sounds and noise levels that are distracting or uncomfortable. Medical equipment can be loud.
- Work near others. They often share the same work space with other technologists.
- Must be very exact and accurate when running tests and equipment. Errors in testing can seriously endanger patients' health.
- Make decisions that affect patients on a daily basis. They rarely consult a supervisor before deciding a course of action.
- Make decisions that strongly impact their employer's reputation.
- Set most of their daily tasks and goals without talking to a supervisor first.
- Abide by strict deadlines. Test results cannot be delayed.
- Must sometimes let the pace of work be dictated by the speed of the equipment.
- Often repeat the same physical and mental activities.
- Generally work a set schedule
- Most work full time, about 40 hours per week.
- May work nights, weekends, or holidays. Hospitals need tests run at all hours of the day.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Use their hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Sit or stand for long periods of time.
- Repeat the same movements.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- Use one or two hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- Be physically active and use muscles for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.