A lab technician collects and processes specimens, including bodily fluid and skin samples from patients in hospitals or private medical diagnostic laboratories. Another title for this career is the medical laboratory technician. They play an important role behind the scenes. While surgeons and doctors take the front seat, it is in fact these technicians who work hard in examining and analyzing body tissues, fluids and other substances. They play an important role in diagnosis and treatment of a patient by helping the primary physician. A lab technician salary is also almost at par with other medical professionals.
What Is a Lab Technician?
Medical technicians are responsible for testing cells and fluids of the body for bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances. They prepare lab specimens and conduct elaborate tests. They are also responsible for evaluating test results. Hence, you would note that the average lab technician salary tends to be on the higher side. Here are the regular duties that are performed by a clinical lab technician or technologist.
Duties And Responsibilities of a Lab technician
Clinical technicians prepare lab specimens and conduct tests on these. They usually analyze bodily samples like urine, stool, sputum, blood, tissue and other substances as well. They are also responsible for listing their findings whether normal or abnormal.
Validating a blood sample for blood transfusions does not end with identifying the blood type. There is detailed research and fact-finding that goes behind the scenes before validating a blood sample. For instance, an HIV scan is a must before using a blood transfusion. Other critical factors such as identifying the number of cells, blood compatibility, blood group and cell morphology in the blood among other things, are also performed by a lab technician.
CAREFUL USE OF SOPHISTICATED EQUIPMENT
Lab equipment can be very delicate and expensive. Lab technicians are responsible for their maintenance and proper use. A primary duty is to work on sophisticated equipment such as cell counters and microscopes. They should also know computerized and automated tools and instruments in order to get their tasks performed faster. For instance, there are many automated tools available that can perform multiple tests at the same time.
Maintaining correct and accurate records is perhaps the most important responsibility of any person working in the health industry. Lab technicians analyze and log data from medical tests into patient medical records. Any mistake here can prove fatal.
The primary health keeper is your physician or doctor. However, the responsibility for analysis of your test samples and results falls on the shoulders of a lab technician. They are responsible for sharing their findings and discussing the results of every test with the concerned physician to ensure the right malady has been diagnosed. They are also obligated to share laboratory procedures undertaken with the physician.
Education & Certification
Education, certifications, and training are among the easiest to obtain in this field making this job appealing to many people. This becomes even better when compared with the average lab technician salary.
Most clinical technicians receive their associate degree from a junior college program or community college. However, it is important that the institute from which you receive this degree is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.
Apart from acquiring an associate degree, lab technicians can also receive a certificate in medical laboratory technology. This can provide the educational background required to perform the duties of a lab technician successfully. Typical coursework for certificate programs in a medical lab technology include urinalysis, biology, chemistry, and hematology. Vocational and technical schools or the Armed Forces might also offer certificate programs for technicians.
Certificates and Licensure
Generally, states require that lab technologists be licensed by an accredited authority on passing a licensing examination. However, in most cases, a license is not required for them to work. Instead, clinical laboratory employers prefer certain certifications to be obtained by their lab technicians. National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel and Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology are the two main certifying authorities. It is important to note that certification is not a mandate by the State law.
In the last year, there were around 42,700 new jobs added to this profession, and this is not counting the number of jobs created due to attrition and retirement. The field is expected to grow at a rate of 13%, which is faster than most of the sectors in the healthcare support industry.
The largest employers were both medical and general hospitals from all sectors such as private, state and local. The second biggest employers were medical and diagnostic laboratories.
However, a lab technician can acquire fruitful work in offices of physicians, education sector, and outpatient care centers. The education sector comprises junior colleges, professional schools, universities and colleges from local, state and private sectors.
Environment And Schedules
Mostly, the jobs available to lab technicians are on a full-time basis. However, if required you can always find a part-time facility. It is difficult to freelance in this sector as you would require expensive and sophisticated machines to perform your job tasks. However, you can opt to become a consultant with a diagnostic facility or laboratory. Facilities where full-time jobs are available for lab technicians usually work round-the-clock in the same way as emergency clinics and hospitals. Hence, a lab technician can be called into work on vacations, weekends, evening and even for night shifts.
Lab technicians are expected to wear protective gear at all times as they have to work with contagious and infectious substances. The work environment is highly sterilized, and they maintain the highest levels of caution at all times. Also, technicians need to work with chemicals that might cause fumes or caustic reactions. Hence, they have to wear protective gear such as masks, goggles, and gloves while working.
There are many candidates for the limited jobs of lab technicians. You can ensure a better career path for yourself if you make sure to integrate the required qualities. You can better your chances at acquiring a preferred full-time job by increasing work experience. Here are a few qualities that top employers of this field look for in a candidate:
1. PHYSICALLY CAPABLE
It might require a technician working in the hospital to take samples directly from the patient. This can cause undue physical stress while shifting the patient or lifting body parts. Medical or clinical technicians need to stand on their feet for long hours while conducting tests. Hence, it is important that a person be in robust health. Also, repetitive motion injury is common and higher than the national average in this industry. Dexterous candidates in good health have better chances of fruitful employment.
2. TECHNOLOGICALLY SAVVY
The medical industry has advanced tremendously in terms of technology. This has trickled down to diagnostics. It is important that a lab technician knows of these changes. There are many sophisticated pieces of lab equipment and machines that require an enhanced technical ability. A lab technician needs to understand the operation of computerized and automated equipment to conduct lab tests and perform tasks successfully. Taking care and preventing damage to the expensive lab equipment is one of the more important job responsibilities of lab technicians.
3. SENSITIVE TO DETAILS & PEOPLE
Pathological testing and diagnostics is a very critical field, and even the smallest mistake can cause fatal repercussions. A lab technician needs to be detail oriented and alert at all times while at work. Technicians do not have the luxury to make errors. They should be able to follow exact instructions in order to perform tests accurately. Lab technicians need to work in close contact with patients and doctors. It is a given fact, which people with effective communication and interpersonal skills work better with others.
Average Lab Technician Salary
There were around 335,700 jobs that were held by lab technicians and technologists collectively in 2016. In 2017, the average lab technician salary was $51,770 annually and $24.89 hourly. The best paid top 10% in this profession made up to $61,720 annually, while the lowest 10% made $26,010 annually on an average. Clinical technicians are ranked 11th in the best healthcare support jobs because of an increasing lab technician salary.
The best paying states for lab technicians are Rhode Island and Alaska. However, there are many good paying opportunities in New Jersey, Vermont, and the Virgin Islands.
Lab technicians have tremendous opportunities in many sectors such as healthcare, educational institutions, and research. This is an ever-growing field because there will always be a need for lab technicians and diagnosis. The average lab technician salary is also above par as compared with other health jobs in medical support sectors. However, you need to make sure that your educational qualifications are from an accredited institute. You should try to get the relevant certificates to increase your chances of securing a preferred job.
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