Medical technologists, also called clinical laboratory technologists, are health professionals whose jobs include many health care roles. They perform laboratory tests essential to the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. They work under the direction of laboratory managers and pathologists.
Medical Technologist Career History
The history of clinical laboratory work is intertwined with the development of medicine itself. By the end of the 19th century, bacteriology and other medical specialties had developed rapidly, creating demand for full-time laboratory personnel. In the early part of the 20th century, many physicians taught their assistants how to perform some of the laboratory procedures frequently used in their practice. The quality of the work done by these assistants varied greatly, and in the 1930s, an attempt was made to standardize training programs then available for the preparation of medical technologists. Professional societies for these technologists were established because of their important role in medical advancement. Medical and laboratory technologists have become integral to the health care system.
Medical Technologist Career Requirements
If you are interested in this career, take college preparatory classes while you are in high school. Science courses, especially those involving laboratory work, such as biology and chemistry, will be particularly helpful. Be sure to take math classes, including algebra and calculus, and computer science courses, which will aid you in preparing for working with calculations and technology. Round out your education with humanities classes, including English. English courses will give you the opportunity to develop your research and report writing skills.
Medical laboratory personnel usually work a 35- to 40hour week, with night or weekend duty often required in hospitals. However, with the current staff shortage, overtime in some facilities has become common, with required amounts of overtime hours assigned to staff.
Medical technologists must exercise meticulous care in their work to avoid risk of exposure to diseases or contamination of a testing sample, requiring the retesting of the patient. Plastics have replaced glass, so risk of cuts from broken equipment is greatly reduced. Chemicals and their containers and usage have also improved with the advancement of technology, so chemical burns are rare. Lab workers must often work under pressure at painstaking tasks. Workloads can be heavy because of staff shortage in the workplace.
Medical Technologist Career Outlook
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of clinical laboratory workers is expected to grow faster than the average through 2014. Although hospitals will continue to be the major employer of medical technologists, non-hospital medical and diagnostic laboratories, offices of physicians, and blood and organ banks will offer the best employment opportunities. The number of medical technologist positions to be filled are expected to exceed the number of qualified applicants, increasing employment opportunities. Also, the development of new types of tests and the population growth will add to the demand for medical technologists.