What's the Job Description of a Clinical Laboratory Assistant (CLA)?

Every day, clinical laboratory assistants help medical technologists prepare and analyze physical specimens to find diseases in order to implement the best treatment. Read on to discover the duties you'll perform as a clinical laboratory assistant. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Clinical Laboratory Assistant Job Description

As a clinical laboratory assistant, you'll work with lab equipment to prepare, examine, and test various samples. In this profession, you can work in a hospital, school, pharmacy, or research facility's laboratory. You might assist with finding disease cures or evaluating environmental contaminants. You could work around infectious diseases that require you to be aware of specific safety procedures.

Important Facts About Clinical Laboratory Assistants

Required Education Associate's degree or certificate
Key Skills Physical endurance, technical savvy, attention to detail, coordination
Professional Certification Required by some states; generally preferred by employers
Similar Occupations Biological technicians, chemical technicians, materials scientists, veterinary technologists and technicians

Preparing Specimens for Examination

Working as a medical or clinical laboratory assistant (CLA), you'll be responsible for preparing biological specimens, such as blood and tissues, for medical examinations. As an assistant, you generally won't perform complex medical tasks, and your work will likely be supervised by a senior lab technician. The full scope of your duties usually depends on your employer, though most CLAs help out primarily in the preparation of samples. Depending on your workplace, your preparation duties might include:

  • Recording information
  • Collecting specimens
  • Labeling specimens for identification
  • Delivering specimens to the laboratory

Generally, if you work in a small laboratory, you could gain a wider range of experience. For example, in assisting a specialist, such as a phlebotomist, you'll collect and prepare blood samples for inspection. If you work as a histotechnician, you'll help prepare human tissue for analysis.

Analyzing Specimens for Disease

If one of your tasks includes performing analyses, you might either run tests using automatic equipment or perform manual tests under close supervision and with explicit instructions. In the area of phlebotomy, you could analyze blood for infectious diseases. As a histotechnician, you might examine tissues for cancer. After cutting the tissue into pieces, you'll usually stain it with dye and analyze it under a microscope.

Evaluating Test Results

If you've performed a specimen analysis on your own, you'll draw conclusions based on your findings, usually in consultation with your supervisor and peers. In addition to reporting your findings, you'll also record the results for administrative purposes.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), a 30% increase in job opportunities was projected for medical laboratory technicians. The BLS reported the median annual salary earned by technicians was $38,370 as of May 2014.

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