Medical laboratory technicians perform standard medical lab tests such as blood tests, immunoassays, and cultures. They must be able to work independently to take lab tests and interpret patient results. They also must work with other health care professionals, such as doctors and nurses, to solve medical problems. Additionally, they are responsible for phlebotomy work, which includes the collection and preparation of patient samples, such as blood, urine, or stool. They must observe patient confidentiality protocols, as they are often working with sensitive personal information.
Outside of patient responsibilities, these technicians are also responsible for ensuring the equipment inside the lab works properly by periodically calibrating and testing it. They are also expected to know how to troubleshoot problematic equipment, evaluate new laboratory methods and equipment, and train new assistants and technicians on current operations.
Candidates for medical laboratory technician positions must be able to function in a stressful environment, be prepared to take on shifts at any time of the day or night, and be prepared to work periodic overtime. Flexibility with hours is particularly important at facilities staffed around the clock, such as hospitals. In addition, the candidate must be physically able to remain on their feet for most of the day, and be prepared to lift and carry lab samples or equipment from one location to another. They must also have good interpersonal skills, as they must interact with patients and their families on a day-to-day basis. It is also helpful to have strong leadership skills, as technicians will most likely supervise laboratory assistants and must be comfortable with delegating tasks and organizing work low.
In most laboratories, an associate's degree is necessary, most preferably in clinical laboratory technology (CLT) or a medical laboratory technology (MLT) program. In addition, candidates must either have, or be willing to obtain, national accreditation. Two appropriate certification options include the American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) or the National Agency for Laboratory Personnel (NCA). As for experience, the minimum is one to two years in a related field, and three to five years in microbiology or a similar field is preferred.
Medical Laboratory Technician Tasks
- Follow health and safety regulations when obtaining patient specimens.
- Identify and follow through on potential problems that may negatively affect patient test results.
- Perform calibration, testing, and quality control checks for all laboratory tests.