Medical lab assistants are crucial for successful patient care. These professionals work in hospitals, clinics, laboratories, long-term care facilities and specialty clinics, and it is their skillful handling of bodily fluids and tissue samples that help physicians diagnose and treat patients. What is a standard day like for a lab assistant?
A Typical Day
The fascinating work of a lab assistant is a blend of scientific investigation and evidence-based patient care. The testing these professionals provide makes the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes and other illnesses possible. Upon arriving at work, a lab assistant begins to complete their day-to-day responsibilities, which may include any of the following:
- Collecting tissue and blood samples from patients
- Formulating the necessary solutions to add to the samples for testing
- Searching for abnormalities while analyzing patient samples
- Testing both blood and urine for the existence of drugs
- Analyzing a patient’s blood for successful transfusion matching
- Maintaining medical equipment such as microscopes, gamma counters, densitometers, spectrophotometers and others
As the lab assistant’s day progresses, they also ensure that lab orders are correct, label specimens accurately, arrange reports for physicians, clean work surfaces and maintain quality standards.
At the end of a typical shift, lab assistants enter lab results into patient records or send final reports to individuals on the patient’s care team. These professionals also sterilize and clean lab equipment to prepare it for the next day. Lab assistants often communicate directly with physicians to ensure the reception of lab results for diagnosis and treatment.
Medical lab assistants typically have a bachelor’s degree in medical technology or one of the sciences. Some states require lab assistants to pass an examination before licensure. Typical coursework includes chemistry, biological sciences, microbiology, mathematics and statistics. Furthermore, some states prefer certification from American Medical Technologists.
Employers seek laboratory personnel who have sound analytical judgment and the ability to work under pressure. An aptitude for problem-solving is an expectation of hiring managers. Attention to detail, manual dexterity, and normal color vision are desirable traits in lab assistants. Computer skills are essential due to the widespread use of automated laboratory equipment.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that most jobs for medical lab assistants are in hospitals. Employment is also high in medical and diagnostic labs, physicians’ offices, outpatient clinics and universities. An 11% job growth will continue through 2028. The average annual salary for a medical lab assistant is $47,283. The work is flexible and is an exciting cross between science, tech and health care. It also provides a fast entry into the health care workforce.