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Diagnostic Technologists

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Medical Technologist/Medical Laboratory Technician
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  Who is a Medical Technologist/Medical Laboratory Technician?

Medical Technologists and Medical Laboratory Technicians play a crucial role in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease by performing tests in laboratories.

  What does a Medical Technologist/Medical Laboratory Technician do?

Medical Technologists and Medical Laboratory Technicians examine and analyze body fluids, such as blood and cells. The difference between Medical Technologists and Medical Laboratory Technicians is the complexity of tests performed, the level of judgment needed, and the amount of responsibility each has. It is the difference in the amount of education and experience that allows one to perform at the Medical Technologist or Medical Laboratory Technician level.

  What education, training, and experience must one have to function as a Medical Technologist/Medical Laboratory Technician?

The usual requirement for an entry-level position as a Medical Technologist is a bachelor’s degree with a major in Medical Technology or in one of the life sciences. However, regulations allow Medical Technologists who have an associate’s degree to perform high complexity testing. Medical Laboratory Technicians generally have an associate’s degree with an emphasis in life science courses from a community or junior college.

  How and by whom is a Medical Technologist/Medical Laboratory Technician supervised?

Medical Technologists and Medical Laboratory Technicians are typically supervised by a laboratory supervisor or administrator; in some instances they are supervised by a pathologist.

  What are the typical day-to-day activities of a Medical Technologist/Medical Laboratory Technician?

Medical Technologists perform complex chemical, biological, hematological, immunologic, microscopic, and bacteriologic tests. They look for bacteria, parasites, and other microorganisms; analyze the chemical content of fluids; match blood for transfusions; and test for drug levels in the blood to show how a patient is responding to treatment.

Medical Laboratory Technicians perform less complex tasks and laboratory procedures than Medical Technologists. Technicians may prepare specimens and operate automated analyzers or may perform manual tests in accordance with detailed instructions.

  Must a Medical Technologist/Medical Laboratory Technician be licensed or certified to function in his or her role as part of the health care team?

Certification is a voluntary process offered by nongovernmental organizations, such as professional societies or certifying agencies that grant recognition to an individual whose professional competence meets prescribed standards. Though mostly voluntary, certification is widely accepted by employers in the health care industry and is a prerequisite for most jobs. In addition, some states require laboratory personnel to be licensed or registered.

  What types of patients would benefit from the care of a Medical Technologist/Medical Laboratory Technician?

Most diagnoses rendered by physicians are based on laboratory procedures or analyses performed by a Medical Technologist/Medical Laboratory Technician.

  How and when does a Medical Technologist/Medical Laboratory Technician become involved in the care of a particular patient?

A Medical Technologist/Medical Laboratory Technician often interacts with the physician to explain a result or to report an abnormal value. A Technologist/Technician does not typically interact directly with a patient unless it is to draw blood or to perform a test directly on the patient.

  Professional organizations for Medical Technologist/Medical Laboratory Technicians:

Descriptive and statistical information about Medical Technologists/Medical Laboratory Technicians can also be found in the Occupational Outlook Handbook provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics under the Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians heading.

Contributed by:
Kathy Cilia, American Medical Technologists

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