What Are the Responsibilities of a Clinical Laboratory Technician?
Clinical laboratory technicians work in labs under the guidance of technologists and scientists. Keep reading for more information about lab technicians and specialties within the occupation.
Overview of Clinical Laboratory Technician Responsibilities
As a clinical laboratory technician, you're responsible for performing a wide variety of medical tests, including blood sampling, urinalysis and microbiological examinations. The typical purpose of these tests is to detect the presence or absence of medical abnormalities and diseases. You may also be responsible for maintaining and sterilizing the medical equipment and instruments used to conduct these tests.
Clinical lab technicians must organize the data obtained from their lab work and use it to help a physician or pathologist arrive at a medical diagnosis. Although a wide range of laboratory disciplines exist, two of the more common types of laboratory technicians and their corresponding duties are discussed below.
Important Facts About This Career
|Median Salary (2018)||$52,330 (for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians)|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||13% (for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians)|
|Key Skills||Physical stamina, attention to detail, understand technology|
|Work Environment||Full time work; some around-the-clock work is possible|
|Similar Occupations||Biological and chemical technicians, chemists and materials scientists, veterinary technologists and technicians|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Clinical laboratory technician positions are usually available to those who earn an associate's degree or a certificate in the medical technology field. Your certificate or associate's degree program in clinical laboratory science will provide an overview of the different lab disciplines that you could go into. If you already know what you want to do, programs that focus on a specific lab discipline, such as phlebotomy or histotechnology, are also available. Your program will cover topics such as human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, histology and microbiology. Your program will typically also include clinical practice or work experience.
Phlebotomy, a specialty within the clinical laboratory technology field, involves the collection of blood samples. A complex list of steps must be followed when performing your duties as a phlebotomist, including patient assessment, puncture site preparation, blood collection and proper labeling of the blood samples. In many hospitals, you'll also be responsible for operating electrocardiography (EKG) equipment to calculate and monitor the electrical activity in the heart.
A histotechnician, another type of clinical laboratory technician, is in charge of the preparation of microscopic lab slides. The slides usually consist of extremely thin slices of human, plant or animal tissue that must be placed under microscopic evaluation. You'll first need to stain the tissue so that the specimen is easier to see and then locate specific cell structures. Occasionally, you may also be responsible for analyzing the slides yourself before passing them on to a pathologist.
Technicians vs. Technologists
Although these two occupations share similar titles, there are distinct differences between clinical laboratory technicians and clinical laboratory technologists. Technologists generally operate at a higher level than technicians, performing more complicated tests and procedures. Technicians tend to perform more routine and automated tests, while technologists are responsible for manual or more detailed tests. Oftentimes, technicians work under the supervision of technologists. Additionally, to land a clinical laboratory technologist position, you typically must complete a bachelor's degree program.
In some states, you need to be licensed or registered to work in a lab. The exact requirements you'll need to fulfill depend on your state and specialty. In some cases, you'll need to be certified as either a general medical laboratory technician or in your specialty before you can be granted licensure. This typically involves graduating from an approved training program and passing an exam. If your state doesn't have any credentialing requirements, becoming certified can still be beneficial, since many employers prefer to hire certified technicians.