Clinical laboratory science practitioners, also known as clinical laboratory technologists or medical technologists, perform a variety of vital duties in labs across the country. The central role of the clinical laboratory technologist is to determine the existence, degree, or lack of infection in a patient and observe the effects of treatment. Currently it is estimated that 70% of all medical decisions made are based upon laboratory results ascertained by clinical laboratory technologists. It is an ideal career for individuals who want to assist in diagnosing and treatment, without working with patients.
The essential functions of a clinical laboratory science technologist vary based upon workplace, education, and specialization. In general, however, all clinical laboratory science technologists should be prepared to perform one or more of the following duties:
- Close examination, usually through a microscope, of bodily fluids (such as blood, mucus, cerebrospinal fluid, urine, etc.), tissues, and cells to determine the presence of disease. Results will be relayed to the surgeon or doctor in order to better diagnose and treat the patient.
- Analysis of cell, fluid, and tissue to discover chemical imbalances that may be causing discomfort or illness.
- Identification of bacteria, parasites, and other foreign organisms within the body.
- Matching compatible blood types for transfusions and surgeries.
- Scrutinizing patient outcomes and efficacy of treatment.
- Performing cell counts in order to diagnose blood disorders such as anemia or leukemia.
- Operating highly technical medical equipment, such as cell counters, microscopes, and other laboratory instruments to run tests and analyze results.
- Establishing quality standards and operational procedures to ensure accuracy of test results.
Clinical laboratory science technologists working in small laboratories may be required to perform all of the above duties, whereas technologists in smaller labs often specialize in one technique. For example, a phlebotomist is solely responsible for collecting and analyzing bloody samples as oppose. Less experienced clinical laboratory science professionals may work as a technicians, rather than technologists. Working as a technician includes performing less complex tests under the supervision of technologists or lab managers. Technicians may also specialize in single analytic techniques.
There are many ways to attain the appropriate credentials for work as a clinical laboratory science technologist. For an entry-level position, most employers require an Bachelors Degree in a Medical Technology or a Life Science, such as Biology and Chemistry. However, it is also possible to begin work as a clinical laboratory science technologist with some combination of school credits and past work experience. Clinical laboratory science technicians are not required to meet the same standards of education and often begin employment with a certificate from a vocational college or a credential from a hospital training program.
Certification and Licensing
Contingent upon what the local law requires in the area you wish to practice, you may be required to seek licensure from the state before beginning work. To become licensed, clinical laboratory technologists usually must furnish proof of graduation from an accredited program and pass a state administered exam.
Most employers prefer to hire candidates that have been certified by a professional association. Agencies which currently offer certification are the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the American Medical Technologists, the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel, and the Board of Registry of the American Association of Bioanalysts. All of the above associations have different pre-requisites for certification.
A rapidly growing and highly lucrative profession, clinical laboratory science practitioners rarely need to worry about job security or salary concerns. The middle 50-precent of medical and clinical laboratory technologists earn between $44,560 and $63,420. The current outlook for employment is superior to other professions due to the number of positions available for relatively few candidates. Hospitals are presently the largest employers of clinical laboratory technologists, although diagnostic labs and private offices also have positions available to qualified applicants.
Figures courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Employment & Wages database.
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