What is a Medical Laboratory Technician?

A medical laboratory technician conducts lab tests ordered by doctors and other healthcare providers. Working with laboratory machines, microscopes, and computers, they examine human tissue samples and bodily fluids in order to identify abnormalities and determine diagnoses. A laboratory technician's work is vital to a patient's healthcare.

Difference between a medical laboratory technologist and a technician:
- Medical laboratory technicians require a two-year degree (or certificate)
- Medical laboratory technologists require a four-year degree

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What does a Medical Laboratory Technician do?

Medical laboratory technicians are the people who perform routine medical laboratory tests, giving physicians the information needed to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease.

A medical laboratory technician looking at a test tube in the laboratory.

By examining and analyzing body fluids and cells, they are able to determine the chemical content of fluids, look for parasites, bacteria, and other microorganisms, look for abnormal cells in blood and body fluids, match blood for transfusions, and test for drug levels in blood.

Medical laboratory technicians use microscopes, cell counters, and other sophisticated lab equipment. They also use computerized instruments and automated equipment that can perform a number of tests simultaneously. After testing and examining a specimen, they analyze the results and relay those results to the physician.

Some of the duties performed by a medical laboratory technician:

  • Set up, maintain, and clean medical laboratory equipment
  • Collect blood or tissue samples from patients
  • Test and analyze bodily fluids, such as blood and urine, by using a microscope or automatic analyzer
  • Examine cells to locate any abnormalities
  • Detect and decipher abnormalities or diseases
  • Enter findings into computer, and record test data to issue reports
  • Conduct blood tests for blood transfusion purposes and perform blood counts
  • Prepare tissue samples for examination by pathologists
  • When abnormal cells are found, consult with a pathologist to determine a final diagnosis
  • Supervise other technicians and laboratory assistants

Are you suited to be a medical laboratory technician?

Medical laboratory technicians have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also realistic, meaning they’re independent, stable, persistent, genuine, practical, and thrifty.

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What is the workplace of a Medical Laboratory Technician like?

Medical laboratory technicians work in hospitals, medical, or diagnostic laboratories, physician's and dentist's offices, and in state or federal agencies.

Working hours may vary according to the type of employment setting. In hospitals or laboratories that operate as a 24-hour facility, technicians usually work the day, evening, or night shift, and may work weekends and holidays. Technicians in small facilities may work on rotating shifts, rather than on a regular shift, and may be on call in case of an emergency.

When proper methods of sterilization are followed, few hazards exist. However, protective masks, gloves, and goggles are often necessary to ensure safety. The workplace is usually well-lit and clean; however, specimens and solutions used in the laboratory sometimes produce fumes.

Medical Laboratory Technicians are also known as:
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technician Certified Clinical Laboratory Technician Clinical Laboratory Technician Clinical Lab Tech Laboratory Technician Medical Lab Technician