Clinical or Medical Laboratory Technicians are highly trained, precisely skilled laboratory scientists whose duty it is to discover the presence or absence of disease. The unique thing about working as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist or Medical Laboratory Technician is that they often work behind the scenes.
These scientists and technicians in the healthcare industry help identify and process laboratory tests that help doctors correctly diagnose and treat patients. Medical Laboratory Technicians and Clinical Laboratory Scientists often examine a host of different tests to evaluate certain medical conditions that a patient could be suffering from or has the potential to contract based on hereditary issues or certain behaviors and exposure over a period of time.
Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Technicians often provide the data that Physicians need to determine the best treatments for their patients. Without effective tests that the Clinical Laboratory Technician has conducted, Physicians could potentially misdiagnose an issue or ailment that a patient is suffering from, and then ultimately treat them for something that they don't have.
Or worst case scenario, a Physician could potentially recommend a treatment plan that is used for quite some time until they realize that it isn't effective or hasn't improved the ailments of the patient at all. This is why Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Technicians are so critical in the healthcare industry because they can ensure that a Physician has the important information they need to get a patient on the right path to improving their well-being.
For those professionals who want to work in the healthcare industry but do not want to work directly with patients, this is a role to consider. Their work does not often place them in positions to be personally involved with patients, but Clinical Laboratory Scientists, Technicians, and Technologists play a vital role in the process of providing individualized care.
Clinical Laboratory Technicians and Scientists generate data used in the identification and treatment of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other health conditions Another aspect of a Clinical Laboratory Technician's job duties include conducting tests to help identify different bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses by culturing samples, and identifying whether or not safe transfusions can occur for blood products.
Another aspect of the job description for Clinical Laboratory Scientists is to monitor the tests to ensure that the tests are of high quality and that all support staff associated with the testing and laboratory are following appropriate guidelines and procedures. This is part of a Clinical Laboratory Scientist's job description because they need to ensure that the quality of the test data is being maintained, so that Physicians can make accurate diagnoses and plan the proper treatment method. If the integrity of the tests and samples are weak, then inaccurate decisions will be made for patients.
One unique thing about working as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist or a Clinical Laboratory Scientist Technician is that nearly all decisions made by Physicians are based on some kind of blood work or cultured sample that is generated from a Clinical Laboratory Scientist.
Another aspect of a Clinical Laboratory Scientist's job description is to ensure that the proper steps and procedures are being followed so no variables are complicating or messing up the results of each test.
Clinical Laboratory Scientists can work in different fields in their time as a healthcare professional. There are several different fields that Clinical Laboratory Specialtologists can focus on. Each one of the different areas that a Clinical Laboratory Scientist can focus on includes potential different tests that they can conduct and evaluate.
• Chemistry — Chemistry allows for Clinical Laboratory Scientists to test patient samples and diagnose them through the use of Chemistry equipment.
• Toxicology — Toxicology involves identifying whether or not there are any toxic substances in a patient's bloodstream. Clinical Laboratory Scientists or Technicians will also use it to identify if there are any potential drugs or illegal substances in a patient's blood, in addition to any concentration of alcohol that might or might not be present.
• Hematology — Hematology involves testing patients' blood to identify any causes for concern in a patient's bloodstream. Clinical Laboratory Technicians will also evaluate a patient's blood to ensure that it can be used for different blood type tests, antibody screening tests, antibody identification tests, compatibility testing, and transfusion information.
• Microbiology — Clinical Laboratory Scientists will focus on microbiology aspects during their routine to identify different patient infections with a focus on identifying different bacteria, parasites, mycobacteria, or fungi.
• Immunology — Clinical Laboratory Technicians will focus on immunology to identify what things patients might be susceptible to.
Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Clinical Laboratory Technicians have a host of responsibilities that set them apart from other healthcare professionals in the industry as they help contribute directly to the decisions that Physicians make as it relates to each patient's care.
Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Clinical Laboratory Technicians evaluate the accuracy of test results and interpret them for the Physician, in addition to presenting the findings in succinct reports that the Physician can evaluate to ensure the conclusion is the correct one.
They use state-of-the-art biomedical instrumentation and technology, in conjunction with precise skilled manual techniques to analyze and examine the following laboratory samples:
Clinical Laboratory Technicians (CLT) and Medical Laboratory Technicians (MLT) primarily focus on:
While Medical Laboratory Scientists (MLS) have more responsibilities, including:
The difference between the two positions boils down to education. Laboratory Technicians need only an Associate degree, while Medical Laboratory Scientists must pursue at least a Bachelor's degree.
Medical Laboratory Scientists have more opportunities to advance into management positions. This rapidly growing field is seeing new advances in areas such as genetic testing. This includes the rapidly advancing PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), or biomarker, technology.
One of the core responsibilities that Clinical Laboratory Scientists have in their role is to conduct and then process laboratory tests that doctors have requested. These tests are essential to giving Physicians and other healthcare providers the tools they need to accurately diagnose and successfully treat patients. Oftentimes blood work or other laboratory tests are needed to identify what is going on within a patient.
Perhaps there are some chemical imbalances that might be causing some issues for a patient, and the only way to identify them is through the use of the tests that Clinical Laboratory Technicians conduct and evaluate. These tests help provide a more clear picture for Physicians and healthcare professionals to use when they are evaluating whether or not one treatment option is the best route or another. This way the patient isn't undergoing some treatment that will only set them back in the long run.
The next core responsibility for Clinical Laboratory Technicians and Scientists is to evaluate and then identify potential abnormalities in the reports. This process involves going over each report and identifying whether or not there are any readings that are not within the acceptable minimum or maximum range for each test.
Clinical Laboratory Technicians or Scientists will evaluate each test to determine whether or not there are things that should the Physician should be concerned about or if they could potentially be contributing to something that the patient is experiencing.
When a Clinical Laboratory Technician or Scientist is reviewing the tests and evaluating the information, they are looking for several things. One of the first things they are identifying is if there are any potential infectious agents in a patient. These infectious agents include bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites.
One of the key aspects to identifying whether or not there are infectious bodies in the patient that could be potentially harmful is to identify the count and measure the presence of antibodies. In addition to these infectious agents, the test results will show things relating to a patient's blood like hemophilia, immunodeficiency, and leukemia.
The next responsibility that Clinical Laboratory Technicians have in their job is to monitor the testing quality and procedures in the laboratory. Clinical Laboratory Technicians are responsible for overseeing the testing quality and laboratory procedures to ensure that all the tests are accurate. As we've covered earlier, in the event that a test comes back improperly or the results aren't accurate, bad things can occur with a patient's potential treatment plan or health.
Another core responsibility for Clinical Laboratory Technicians and Scientists is that they must carefully ensure that all the proper procedures are being taken to ensure the quality of the results.
By observing the testing procedures are being followed, the results quality will be critical in helping Physicians and other healthcare professionals can ensure that there are no major concerns for patients. With tests that have poor quality because of the testing procedures or procedures in the test, the results might be skewed or indicate a false positive. As we've covered earlier, this can accidentally lead to treatment plans that are completely unnecessary.
Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Technicians are also in charge of evaluating whether any new medical equipment needs to be incorporated into the testing facility or laboratory. Because administrative professionals don't have the technical expertise that Clinical Scientists or Clinical Technicians do, they might often be asked to determine whether the new equipment is necessary.
As the healthcare industry continually evolves and tries to find ways to improve the rate at which patients get better or the efficiency of modern equipment to assist in helping patients improve their condition, Clinical Laboratory Scientists will be tasked with identifying whether any new lab technology would be crucial to meeting those goals.
Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Clinical Laboratory Technicians will be tasked with identifying any potential equipment that the administration can buy and then use in the laboratory to improve patient testing accuracy and result speed of the tests that the existing testing equipment is making.
Part of this evaluation period from Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Technicians is designed to evaluate whether the appropriate medical equipment is sufficient, evaluate whether new technology must be incorporated into the testing laboratory, and identify if the results from the different medical equipment will sufficiently improve outcomes.
Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Technicians are also responsible for using computers to input the results from the testing procedures. As the healthcare industry continually finds ways to improve its efforts for the general public and integrate new technology, one important aspect is to make sure that all the decision makers have the information they need when they need it.
This means that Physicians and other healthcare professionals no longer need to rely on the Clinical Laboratory Scientist or Technician to hand them the information when it's completed. Instead, when these scientists and technicians upload the information and testing results into the computer, Physicians and other relevant healthcare professionals can access the data and begin to use it at a moment's notice.
This removes any potential issues that might arise because they don't have the most up to date tests in their hand or need to re-evaluate something when they were thinking about it later on in the day.
Another benefit of having Clinical Laboratory Technicians input all of the testing results they have into a database that is easily accessible to other healthcare professionals is that those healthcare professionals can then compare current test results to previous tests that were ordered or requested at a different time.
This way, Physicians and other important healthcare professionals who are attending to a patient can evaluate whether or not a patient has progressed, regressed, or remained stagnant in their results from a previous test.
This comparison process is important to evaluate whether or not a patient is actually improving or staying the same. This is a great way to evaluate whether or not a treatment method is actually working, or if there needs to be any potential consideration for a new treatment method that will help a patient improve at a more drastic rate.
The next core responsibility that Clinical Laboratory Scientists have is to label and sort the tests, samples, and reports. After the Clinical Laboratory Technician has done this, the next thing to do is to arrange the tests, samples, and reports to ensure that everything appears to be logical for those individuals who need to review the information.
Presenting a test or the test's findings that is out of order or incomplete might confuse the healthcare professional or Physician who is reviewing it. With a bit of practice and training, sorting and arranging the tests and reports for the healthcare professionals who need it becomes like second nature.
Another responsibility that Clinical Laboratory Scientists have is to participate in staff training. A Clinical Laboratory Scientist's job is to make sure that the integrity of the samples and tests remains consistent. In the event that the sample were to be ruined, the test would become compromised. In the event that a test becomes compromised, the results could potentially skew the findings and lead to some potentially disastrous results as we've highlighted earlier.
Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Technicians are often used for various staff training purposes to highlight the necessary steps that need to be taken to ensure the quality of the testing samples and the transportation of those samples to the laboratory. Often times while other healthcare professionals are educated about the importance of maintaining the quality of the samples, they can often use a refresher on some of the best practices in the industry.
This is where Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Technicians can provide vital information to help once again remind those individuals about the steps they can take to make sure that the testing integrity is in place.
Another core responsibility for healthcare Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Technicians is to act as an educational resource for other healthcare professionals as part of this process. Even if someone is relatively familiar with all of the testing procedures or have a general understanding of how something works, they can often still have questions that only a Clinical Laboratory Scientist or Clinical Laboratory Technician can answer.
In the event that another healthcare professional has any questions or concerns, Clinical Laboratory Scientists should be prepared to answer them. To effectively answer their questions or concerns, CLS professionals should understand how to communicate effectively without making things seem too confusing or convoluted for those healthcare professionals who don't understand the inner-workings of the role.
The next responsibility that Clinical Laboratory Scientists have is to maintain both the equipment and the laboratory in which the equipment is used. Over time, as the equipment frequently gets used, it can break down or lead to some inconsistent results.
To ensure this doesn't happen faster than the standard pace, Clinical Laboratory Scientists have to ensure that the equipment is well maintained, cleaned after each use, and that other healthcare professionals that might interact with it are taking care of the machines and equipment as well.
Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Technicians also have a responsibility to supervise and monitor other staff or support staff that are involved with the clinical testing and reporting procedures. Even if the Clinical Laboratory Scientist or Technician is not a supervisor, everyone still has a responsibility to ensure that the proper procedures are being followed and observed. This ensures that the tests aren't going to be inaccurate or there are potential external factors that could influence the results or reports of those tests.
Part of monitoring other Clinical Laboratory Scientists and support staff that might be working in the testing laboratory is ensuring that everyone including the Clinical Laboratory Scientist themselves is to make sure that everyone is closely following and observing the established safety guidelines and procedures.
A Clinical Laboratory Scientist's key responsibilities can essentially be boiled down to ensure the integrity and consistency of the tests they conduct for healthcare professionals and Physicians to accurately diagnose and effectively treat patients. As the healthcare industry seeks to use more data to accurately diagnose and treat patients Clinical and Medical Laboratory Science professionals will be in greater demand in the coming years.
For those individuals who are potentially considering a career or figuring out whether or not they'd like to make a career switch to becoming a Clinical Laboratory Scientist, getting a glimpse into what a daily routine looks like will help paint a clearer picture about whether or not this is a potential career that you'd like to pursue.
• Process Laboratory Tests
Arguably the most common activity on the job for Clinical Laboratory Scientist or Clinical Laboratory Technician is to process different laboratory tests that have been ordered by Physicians or other healthcare professionals.
• Generate Data Based On Lab Test Results
Once the test results come back, the next thing is to take the results and generate data that is relevant to the questions that the healthcare professional was hoping to answer. This could be in a variety of different reports, graphs, or information that would make the dissemination of information easy.
The dissemination of the information is important for every healthcare professional. Even if they understand what the reports are from the onset, it's more efficient to make the information easy-to-read so they don't have to think about it for a few seconds to rehash or try to remember everything they learned to interpret the data.
• Identify Potential Abnormalities
The next common activity on the job for Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Clinical Laboratory Technicians is to identify any potential abnormalities that might be in the data. This includes any results that might be out of the min/max for a regular patient. The evaluation of the abnormalities involves making sure that the abnormalities aren't due to the testing procedure or improper data manipulation. Essentially, the Clinical Laboratory Scientist and Technician is tasked with making sure that the results are accurate.
• Evaluate the Accuracy of Test Results
The next part of evaluating the data and testing results is to ensure the test results are accurate. As we've covered earlier, this is important to ensure that the testing procedures were properly followed and the test results are accurate for the test that was ordered.
• Input Test Results Into Patient Database
The next common activity for Clinical Laboratory Scientists is to take the test results and data from the lab results and input them properly into the proper patient and healthcare databases. This is useful for those healthcare professionals that need to access the data at any location or need digital results instead of the paper copy.
• Present Findings to Relevant Healthcare Professionals and Physicians
The next common activity in your daily routine as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist or Clinical Laboratory Technician is to present the findings to the relevant healthcare professionals or physicians. This process involves communicating with healthcare professionals about what they are looking at, or explaining how they got the results they did with the laboratory equipment. In addition, the healthcare professional might have some questions related to why there might be a potential abnormality in the findings.
• Follow Lab Guidelines and Procedures
One of the most important common activities that a Clinical Laboratory Scientist or Clinical Laboratory Technician has each day is to make sure that they follow the proper laboratory guidelines and laboratory procedures. These guidelines and procedures are put in place to make sure there is no accidental contamination or degradation of a patient sample that is being used for testing purposes.
In addition, these rules are set in place to ensure that the findings are consistent, the research process is being followed properly, and there is no concern as it relates to the validity of the test results themselves.
• Maintain Lab Equipment
The next common activity for Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Technicians is to ensure the maintenance and cleanliness of the lab equipment. The equipment has to be ready at all times for new tests that need to be conducted. Over time, this equipment will receive it's fair share of use and the best way to ensure that the equipment lasts for as long as possible is to provide regular maintenance and clean it after each use.
If more technical maintenance is needed than a simple adjustment or repair, then outside help might have to be called in. Determining whether or not outside assistance for the maintenance of the equipment is up to the Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Technicians.
• Evaluate New Medical Equipment Needs
As we've covered earlier, the healthcare industry is always changing and incorporating new technology into a daily routine. One of the things that each Clinical Laboratory Scientist or Technician will be forced to do is to evaluate whether or not they need new equipment that would speed up the testing process, produce more accurate results, and more.
Part of this involves answering questions about what equipment is needed for budgetary purposes in the next fiscal year to the department head. As part of the evaluation process about whether or not new equipment is needed in the laboratory, Clinical Laboratory Technicians should be prepared to answer any questions and justify why they feel they should potentially spend thousands of dollars on new equipment instead of keeping the existing equipment.
• Participate In Staff Training
Another common activity that Clinical Laboratory Scientists have to do is to participate in staff training. This involves getting trained by their own superiors and managers, in addition to providing training and support to other healthcare professionals. As we've covered earlier, one of the biggest concerns in any testing and research environment is the consistency and quality of the lab samples.
To ensure that the lab samples are good, Clinical Laboratory Scientists will have to engage in training to ensure that other healthcare professionals are doing their best to make sure that the quality of the patient sample isn't getting tainted in any way, or that the results themselves aren't being manipulated improperly. Part of this training will also involve making sure that other laboratory healthcare professionals are doing all they can to make sure they are maintaining the integrity of the tests, keeping the laboratory clean, and more.
• Provide Guidance To Other Healthcare Professionals
One common activity that Clinical Laboratory Scientists might have to do each day is to provide guidance to other healthcare professionals. One way that they can do this is by recommending which tests might be useful in certain scenarios, or what each test is looking to find.
• Supervise and Monitor Support Staff
The next common activity for each Clinical Laboratory Scientist or Clinical Laboratory Technician is to help supervise and monitor each support staff within the laboratory. As we've covered earlier, it doesn't matter if the Clinical Laboratory Scientist is not in a supervisor role, as each one has to take on the responsibility that every single person needs to be following the proper procedures, guidelines, and testing procedures to ensure that the lab results aren't getting improperly manipulated or returning inaccurate results.
Clinical laboratory scientists and technicians both need many of the same skills for success. A strong interest and mastery of the sciences, including chemistry, biology, and microbiology, is key, along with the capacity to work well both alone and as part of a team.
They're required to have knowledge of key safety practices, biochemical reagents, and standard examinations, and to be an effective communicator, both orally and in writing.
Problems can arise out of nowhere in a laboratory setting, so being able to quickly and logically find solutions is another highly sought-after skill employers look for in candidates.
The availability of employment opportunities in a clinical laboratory setting varies depending on the geographic region, meaning professionals in field have opportunities for challenging positions in a wide range of arenas.
Clinical laboratory professionals may find work in the following areas:
The different work settings mean work hours may vary greatly. Most hospitals and reference laboratories operate 24/7, meaning evening and night shifts as well as weekend and holiday assignments.
This makes it an appealing job for working parents, as there is flexibility in scheduling work shifts.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows laboratory technicians working in the following areas:
General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private
|Medical and diagnostic laboratories||17%|
|Offices of physicians||10%|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||5%|
For those individuals who are interested in potentially becoming a Clinical Laboratory Scientist or learn the steps it takes to become a Clinical Laboratory Technician, take a look at our comprehensive Clinical Laboratory Scientist / Technician Career Path.
|Estimated Annual Salary||Average Hourly Wage||Positions Nationwide|