Love it or Leave It: Lab Technician Job

HealthcareNovember 14, 2013

There are numerous specialized options in specific areas of expertise throughout the field of medicine, and the same holds true for the field of medical laboratory science. Within a medical lab technician job, there are many specialty areas to choose from as a means to develop your skills and knowledge base. The more hands-on experience you have under your belt, the more attractive you will become to employers.

What do laboratory personnel actually do?  Affectionately known as "med techs" or even more humorously as "lab rats", medical technicians perform analytical tests on anything from pond water to body fluids and biopsies, depending on the area in which you work. Scientific in nature, lab work emphasizes the importance of precision and quality with the tools you use to do your job. You'll become quite familiar with not only how these tools work, but also how to take care of them. Many areas of the lab are moving toward instrument automation to produce results, so naturally those instruments need occasional maintenance and care, which will play a large role in a lab technician's duties.

Because clinicians rely heavily on the work of medical technicians, your job will also entail communicating with them about turnaround times (how quickly you can produce a result), a specific patient's results, and even what types of methods are used to perform an analysis. As a result, a medical lab technician job serves as an integral part of health care and diagnosis.  While the job does involve some repetition, advances in science and technology will cause changes every few years as new ways of analyzing tests and research will be implemented. 

The types of hours and days worked in a medical lab technician job vary based upon public or private sector labs. The public sector typically operates during normal business hours while the private sector could stay open 24/7.  If you choose to work in a privately owned laboratory, such as ARUP Laboratories, you can expect to find a larger variety of work schedules available to help fit busy lifestyles and even accommodate for school and class times.  Shifts range from early morning to graveyard shift, eight to 10 hours per day, four to five days per week, and may include weekends and holidays.  Some private labs also pitch the alternative "seven-on/seven-off" schedule to their employees, who work for seven days straight, 10 to 11 hours per day, totaling 70 hours in one week but paying you for 80 hours worked. The only downside to this schedule is that the end of the week can be exhausting, and your work week will unavoidably fall on holidays.  The upside to "seven-on/seven-off" is working 70 hours instead of 80 hours and, of course, having an entire week off at a time.

Whichever career path you choose, medical laboratory technology is a progressive field of study that offers variation in specializations while also helping you maintain a balance between work and life.

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