5 Best Reasons to Become a Medical Lab Tech
Medical laboratories across the U.S. face a serious shortage of medical laboratory scientists. CNN Business reports that by 2025, the US will likely face a shortage of 98,700 medical technologists and technicians. If you or someone you know is in high school and open to healthcare career opportunities, if you’re in a community college undecided on a major, or if you’re a science major at a four-year college and are interested in healthcare professions there are great reasons to consider medical laboratory science.
Here are 5 great reasons to consider working in the medical laboratory field:
1. Patient Care
Healthcare is an endless service field, and laboratory is crucial to keeping hospitals open and functioning. Why? Because medical laboratory technology provides clinical diagnostic answers for physicians to treat patients. There are numerous staff working behind the scenes serving patients. Adequate staffing is critical to avoid delayed treatment. For those who are shy or prefer not to work directly with patients, lab (outside of phlebotomy) is favorable for those who wish not to work directly with patients. The laboratory profession is indirect, but STILL very essential because doctors depend on lab techs for results.
As long as hospitals are always open, you can always count on available job opportunities in hospital laboratories. Sometimes that calls for weekends and holidays. Let me tell you, THAT’S LIFE. The world would not function ideally if people did not work nights and weekends.
Early on in my career, I used to fuss about working the weekends. Now I just see working weekends as trading a weekend for a weekday. Weekends are great, but it’s so much easier to get things done while most places are open during the week. Meaning if planned correctly, I don’t have to lose time from work for a doctor’s appointment during the week. I can simply work with my supervisor to swap that Thursday for a Sunday.
Also, if an employee is at least part-time, many hospitals (regardless of position) will offer advantageous benefits such as tuition reimbursement. Stipulations of the major to choose may vary depending on the hospital. Some hospitals offer tuition reimbursement only for healthcare-related career majors. I can’t believe no one told me this while I was in college! So many things I would have done differently! (sigh)
4. Stepping stone for advanced practice
It’s totally fine to enter the field short-term with an outside the goal in mind. One of the great things about working in the medical laboratory is that the experience is valuable to those interested in pursuing medical school, pharmacy school, or PA school. Often these programs want applicants to be familiar with healthcare. Pre-professional experience in laboratory can show program staff that you’ve already committed to serving patients in a lesser, yet essential role. Lab experience as a medical laboratory technician, or even phlebotomy can provide a more competitive applicant file for professional school programs. Need proof? Check out the story of an EMT and a nurse who both capitalized off of their experiences and became physicians. Additional opportunities for advancement can include healthcare information technology, healthcare administration, and medical sales. AND more!
5. Opportunity travel
Travel is NOT limited to Nursing! This is what I enjoy the most about my career in medical laboratory science is the freedom and benefit of travel opportunities! Check out my previous article about COVID-19 travel opportunity. That was one of the half-dozen travel opportunities I have been fortunate to experience in my journey as a traveler. I love a change of scenery and travel opportunities give options for those who want a change or who desire the benefits travel work offers. Travel opportunities are in dozens of healthcare fields, including phlebotomy!
How do I sign up?
Here the common laboratory positions and sample job postings:
Performs phlebotomy (venipuncture blood collection) and other specialized specimen collection procedures for patients both in in-patient and out-patient settings. Responsibilities include the processing, organizing, labeling and transporting of specimens as well as the input and extraction of data with the Laboratory Information System. Provides for patient care while performing duties, independently handling patient care and technical issues as they arise within the scope of their job. Also performs clerical tasks such as answering the phones and faxing lab reports as needed.
Education: High school diploma; phlebotomy training course documentation
Laboratory Assistant/Accessioning/Central Processing Tech:
Responsible for the processing, organizing, labeling, and transporting of specimens for laboratory testing. Duties also include the input and extraction of data from the Laboratory Information System and the performance of clerical tasks such as answering phones and filing documents.
Education: High school diploma or equivalent education
Medical Laboratory Technician:
Sample Job Description: Conducts routine tests for use in diagnosis and treatment of disease, and performs related duties, following established standards and practices. Under limited supervision, performs blood tests and studies morphology of constituents of blood to obtain data for use in diagnosis and treatment of disease. Performs various bacteriological mycological virological and parasitological tests to provide data on the cause and progress of disease
Education: Associate Degree in one of the sciences is preferred. Successful completion of an approved medical laboratory technician training program or equivalent.
Medical Laboratory Scientist (Technologist):
Sample Job Description: Conducts routine tests for use in diagnosis and treatment of disease, and performs related duties, following established standards and practices. Performs blood tests and studies morphology of constituents of blood to obtain data for use in diagnosis and treatment of disease. Performs various bacteriological mycological virological and parasitological tests to provide data on the cause and progress of disease. Often directs other staff members such as MLT and Phlebotomist
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Science or science-related field; completion of hospital laboratory internship
Certification: Medical Laboratory Science (the American Society for Clinical Pathology) or equivalent alternate exam
It’s ok to be undecided about pursuing a career in medical laboratory science. Consider job shadowing. Reach out to a hospital laboratory director and express your interest. He or she will likely be quite enthusiastic to hear from someone who is interested in the laboratory field. Gone are the days where it was assumed you work one career at one place for 30 years and retire. Career experience in the medical laboratory can be anything you want—full-time, part-time, PRN, travel contract, or building block for professional school. You can do anything and always use your lab skills as a side hustle. Opportunities in life are endless!