Hematology and the Medical Laboratory Technician

HealthcareJanuary 07, 2014

Hematology is the study of blood that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders and malignancies. A medical laboratory technician degree prepares you by teaching you how to collect blood specimens properly from patients. It also educates on you on how to analyze the blood using automated and manual testing methods, before reporting results back to a team of medical professionals. 

Working in hematology starts with proper specimen collection. Erroneous results can occur if the specimen is clotted from not inverting tubes properly or contaminated by drawing blood above an IV. If the specimen is too old, this will impact the red blood cell morphology if a blood smear is needed. Too small of a volume drawn into the tube is not sufficient for analysis and can cause incorrect numerical values. Recognizing a quality specimen that is properly collected is imperative in patient care and can greatly impact the treatment of the patient.

Medical laboratory technicians use sophisticated analyzers to detect abnormalities in blood samples and body fluids, accurately and efficiently. These analyzers use methods that allow the instrument to detect immature white blood cells and abnormalities in red blood cell morphology. In addition to automated testing, a medical laboratory technician will use the manual methods to confirm instrument findings.  Blood smears are made by the instrument or by hand, and they are stained with dyes before being examined with a light microscope for the presence of cellular abnormalities. In addition to making blood smears, medical laboratory technicians can be trained to make smears on a variety of fluids, such as spinal fluid and peritoneal fluid. To count the cells of these fluids, a special cell counting device is used.

Some of the skills necessary to work in hematology include good judgment and the ability to work under pressure in emergency situations. Close attention to detail is also required for medical laboratory technicians working in hematology because small differences in white blood cell or red blood cell morphology or changes in numerical values can be crucial to a diagnosis. Manual dexterity and normal color vision are essential, and with the use of automated lab equipment, computer skills are important to detect problems and be able to fix them. Excellent written and verbal communication are skills used to convey information effectively within the lab and to other medical professionals.

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