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A Day in the Life of a Lab Technician

Apr 08, 2010

When the lab technician reports to the lab, it can be almost any time of day. More than half of lab technicians work within the hospital setting. On the average day, the lab technician reports to the laboratory to start his shift.

He dons his gloves, goggles, and even a mask to protect him from splashes or splatters.  He also puts on his lab coat.  After all, it is important he protects himself from any bacteria or pathogens that might be present in the blood or body fluid he is examining.  The lab tech is glad he has worn comfortable shoes to work today.  The hospital is filled to capacity and the emergency room is very busy.  The outpatient laboratory also is filled with patients that need to have their blood tested either as ordered by their physician or prior to having a procedure completed. 

Around the corner comes the phlebotomist. She is carrying specimens that she has collected from some patients in the emergency room. All the specimens are carefully labeled with the patients' name and medical record number. The phlebotomist places the specimens in the appropriate spot and the lab technician picks up his first specimen of the day. He consults his computer to see what tests the emergency room doctor has ordered for this patient. The doctor has ordered a complete blood count as well as a blood type and cross for the patient. The lab tech prepares the specimen to be analyzed.  In several minutes the complete blood count is completed and a print out with the results emerges from the laboratory printer. The patient's hemoglobin is low; only six!  The lab tech quickly faxes the results to the emergency room and then calls the emergency room phone to let the nurse and doctor know about the critical value.  "Thank you so much," says the emergency room nurse.  "Please try to hurry with that type and cross.  This patient will need a blood transfusion!  I will let the doctor know about the low hemoglobin so he can order the blood transfusion."  

The lab technician begins work on the type and screen for this patient.  The lab is really coming to life now.  The other lab techs are busy checking urine samples for bacteria and infection, analyzing the size and appearance of cells using the complicated lab equipment and microscopes, and talking on the phone to the nursing units about abnormal labs.  One phone is ringing and the lab tech answers.  "Hi this is the operating room," he hears on the other line. "Are the results for Mr. Smith ready yet?" He signs in to his computer again to check the progress of the patient's lab work.  Already another line is ringing.  This shift is going to go quickly," thinks the lab tech. 

The Pros and Cons of a Career as a Lab Tech

Lab technicians are on their feet for much of their work.  While their jobs do not require heavy lifting per se, they can become overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be completed.  Most hospital laboratories are one of the busiest places in the hospital; just about every patient that comes into the hospital requires some lab work or body fluid analysis of some kind. 

While the job can be stressful, the technician is usually well compensated for his hard work.  The lab tech can work a variety of shifts and there is often opportunity for the lab tech to work overtime and earn extra money if he wishes.  His careful work is appreciated by his fellow medical workers as well as many patients.

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