Medical Laboratory Technology also called Clinical laboratory science is an allied health profession which is concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease through the use of clinical laboratory tests. These tests help doctors to detect, diagnose and treat diseases. A Medical Laboratory Technologist (MLT) do these tests by analyzing body fluids, tissues, blood typing, microorganism screening, chemical analyses, cell counts of human body etc. They play an important role in collecting the information's needed, sampling, testing, reporting and documentation of these investigations. They determine the presence, extent or absence of disease and provide data needed to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment.
There are two levels of medical laboratory workers - Technicians and Technologists.
Medical technologists work in five major areas of the laboratory ie, in Blood banking, Clinical Chemistry (chemical analysis of body fluids), Hematology (blood related), Immunology (study of immune system) and Microbiology (study of bacteria and other disease organisms). They also work in the areas of cytotechnology (study of human tissue), phlebotomy, urinalysis, coagulation, parasitology and serology. Phlebotomists draw and test blood where as Blood bank technologists determine correct blood types for transfusions. Histology technicians cut and stain tissue samples.
Medical technologists have more training and job responsibilities. They perform complex tests such as microscopic examinations of tissues, blood and other body fluids to detect evidence of disease and detect the presence of bacteria, fungi, parasites etc and chemical tests to determine blood cholesterol levels. They also match blood samples for transfusions and test drug levels in blood to determine how patients are responding to medications. They are often responsible for making sure that testing is done accurately. In some labs, technologists conduct research under the supervision of medical researchers.
Medical technicians do routine laboratory testing manually according to instructions. They work under Technologists or supervisors. Technicians may prepare specimens and operate machines that automatically analyze samples. In addition to running tests, technicians set up, clean, and maintain laboratory equipment, such as centrifuges, microscopes etc. They also prepare standard solutions for use in the lab. This involves measuring and mixing the correct amount of various chemicals.
Some of the courses offered in Lab Technology are Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Technology (BMLT), Diploma in Medical Laboratory Technology (DMLT). BMLT course for Medical Lab Technologists is structured to train students in the clinical Laboratory analysis of blood, urine, feces, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, ascetic fluid etc to aid the doctors in arriving at a correct diagnosis and treatment of the disease. There are also Diploma / Certificate courses for lab technicians / assistants in general and in different specialties such as Diplomas in EEG Lab Technician, Histopathology Lab Technician etc.
The basic eligibility criteria for Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Technology (BMLT) is 10+2 or equivalent with Science subjects Or Pre- University Vocational course from a recognized Board with laboratory Technology as Vocational subject . BMLT is a 3 year programme. Eligibility needed for Diploma in Medical Laboratory Technology (DMLT) is 10+2 or equivalent examination farom a recognised University or Board. Duration of the course is 2 years. There are also other certificate courses in lab technicians which needs 10+2 as the eligibility. Courses are offered by colleges, universities as well as hospitals. The hospitals are usually affiliated with a college or university. Personal Attributes - Some of the qualities required for a lab technician/ technologist is the ability to conduct research, finish tasks with speed as well as with accuracy, to handle stress, make analytical judgment, interpreting technical/scientific data, knowledge of laboratory instrumentation, mechanical ability and the ability to use computers. They should have an eye for detail, be self-sufficient, precise, dedicated and self-motivated. They should have stamina as they may need to work a good deal of time, standing. They should exercise special care when handling infectious materials or dangerous chemicals.
Job Prospects and Career Options
The career of lab a worker depends on academic and technical skills. A certified medical laboratory technician may find a challenging career in a hospital, minor emergency centers, private laboratory, blood donor centers, doctor's office or clinics. A technician an become a technologist through further education and work experience. Laboratory technologists can assist the doctors in taking samples, centrifuging, making slides, using specified stains etc, under proper guidance. As such, the demand for laboratory technologists will always increase since the number of hospitals, specialty hospitals, laboratories etc. are increasing. Job opportunities are also available in research laboratories and military service.
Technologists can advance to supervisory or management positions in labs and hospitals. They can also work as Laboratory manager/Consultant/supervisor, health care Administrator, Hospital Outreach coordination, laboratory information system Analyst/Consultant, educational consultant / coordinator/ director, health and safety officer etc. Additional opportunities are available in molecular diagnostics, molecular biotechnology companies and in vitro fertilization laboratories as well as in research labs. In the clinical areas, drug testing, therapeutic drug monitoring and biogenetics are just a few of the specialties with openings. In industry, medical technologists are needed for positions in product development, marketing, sales, quality assurance, environmental health and insurance, among others.
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