To enter the health care profession, you don’t have to spend years at college and spend too much money to become a nurse. The health care industry has opened up many new options, and you can get started in the profession within a few weeks while some may take up to a year. Medical laboratory assistant is one such profession for you if you are interested in joining the health care sector, which is flourishing like never before and needs trained professionals.
These laboratory assistants are also referred to as clinical laboratory technicians in some states. It is a specialized profession which requires one year of formal training and certification to start practicing professionally. Most people believe that doctors and nurses are the key constituents of the health care workforce, but you will be surprised to know that 60 percent of the health care professionals are allied health care workers.
Most people, therefore, chose to take up these careers instead of becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA) because it is easier, and the job is less stressful. Moreover, the job opportunities for allied health care professionals are higher because they reduce the cost of health care.
Duties of Medical Laboratory Assistants
The basic job responsibilities of these professionals are to collect samples of body fluids and perform tests in the laboratory. Some of the important job responsibilities are as below:
- Examine body fluids such as blood, urine, and tissue samples to determine if the findings are normal or affected
- Enter data of medical tests and enter results into a patient’s medical record on paper and online
- Collect and analyze blood samples for transfusions by recognizing the number of cells, the cell morphology or the blood group, blood type, and suitability with other blood types
- Handle highly sophisticated laboratory instruments such as cell counters and microscopes
- Use automatic and computerized devices which are capable of performing many tests at the same time
- Communicate findings of laboratory tests and procedures with physicians
In this job profile, you will have to work under the guidance of a laboratory manager and follow his/ her orders and perform tests as directed by the physician or other health care professionals.
You can also undertake specializations and become a blood bank technician who conducts various blood tests, Clinical chemistry technologists who carry out tests on chemical and hormonal contents of body fluids, Cytotechnologists who examine body cells with a microscope for abnormalities. These Immunology technologists test the immune system and their reactions to foreign bodies.
The options for specialization are numerous and you can choose the setting you want to work in. Some of the desired qualities in medical laboratories assistant are compassion, eye for details, ability, and technical skills.
How to Become a Medical Laboratory Assistant
If you are a high school student and are planning a career in medical laboratory sciences, you must take classes in mathematics, chemistry, and biology. This starting level job requires a certificate program in laboratory sciences or life sciences. The training program lasts for one year and is offered by universities and hospitals.
The subjects taught during the training include chemistry, biology, microbiology, statistics, and mathematics, along with will practical training in laboratory techniques, education, and management. College graduates with major in other sciences also qualify for this job if their curriculum fulfills the requirements of medical laboratory sciences study. The curriculum of such programs covers all the major laboratory-related subjects and practical training.
Unlike CNA, the certification is not mandatory in all states, but employers prefer certified professionals to carry out tests in their laboratories. You can get a general certification or specialized ones to work in specific health care settings.
The most important credential required is to complete training from a state-approved training program and continuing education for a certain number of hours is required to maintain the certification.
Licensure requirements exist in some states where the state holds certification exams, but these requirements change from one state to another. For details about the specifications in your state contact the health department of your state.
Job Outlook for Medical Laboratory Assistants
As a medical assistant, you can seek employment in varied health care settings but it has been noticed that more than half of jobs are generated by the hospital, both state-run and private. Nearly 350,000 people were working as medical laboratory aides in 2010.
Employment opportunities for these professionals are expected to grow at more than 11 percent as compared to other jobs across the United States. There was a report which stated that there was a 15 percent growth in the positions between January 2011 and 2012.
Like all health care jobs, medical lab techs, as they are called, are in big demand. The annual salary of medical laboratory aides is around $36,000, and those working in hospitals run by the federal government earn up to $40,000 a year.
It is a bit more compared to a certified nursing assistant (CNA). If you specialize in one of the settings mentioned above, you will increase your chances of getting higher paychecks. Hospitals and reference clinics pay higher salaries as compared to other settings.
It is one of the best career options if you want to enter the medical field. In due course of time, if you take up higher education, you can climb up the ladder in the medical laboratory sciences field.