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Medical laboratory technologists (also known as medical laboratory scientists) and medical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform the tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.
Medical laboratory technologists and medical laboratory technicians have different job responsibilities: technologists perform more complex tests and procedures than do technicians, and they typically supervise technicians. Medical laboratory technologists typically do the following:
- Analyze body fluids such as blood, urine, and tissue samples to determine normal or abnormal findings
- Collect and study blood samples for use in transfusions by identifying the number of cells, the cell morphology or the blood group, blood type, and compatibility with other blood types
- Operate sophisticated laboratory equipment such as microscopes and cell counters
- Use automated equipment and computerized instruments capable of performing a number of tests at the same time
- Log data from medical tests and enter results into a patient’s medical record
- Discuss results and findings of laboratory tests and procedures with physicians
- Supervise or train medical laboratory technicians
Medical laboratory technicians usually work under the supervision of medical laboratory technologists or laboratory managers. Both technicians and technologists perform tests and procedures that physicians or other healthcare personnel order. However, technologists perform more complex tests and laboratory procedures than technicians do. For example, technologists may prepare specimens and operate automated analyzers or perform manual tests that are based on detailed instructions.
Technologists in small laboratories perform many types of tests; in large laboratories, they generally specialize. The following are examples of types of specialized medical laboratory technologists:
- Blood bank technologists, or immunohematology technologists, collect blood, classify it by type, and prepare blood and its components for transfusions.
- Clinical chemistry technologists prepare specimens and analyze the chemical and hormonal contents of body fluids.
- Cytotechnologists prepare slides of body cells and examine these cells with a microscope for abnormalities that may signal the beginning of a cancerous growth.
- Immunology technologists examine elements of the human immune system and its response to foreign bodies.
- Microbiology technologists examine and identify bacteria and other microorganisms.
- Molecular biology technologists perform complex protein and nucleic acid tests on cell samples.
Like technologists, medical laboratory technicians may work in several areas of the laboratory or specialize in one particular area.
- Phlebotomists collect blood samples.
- Histotechnicians cut and stain tissue specimens for pathologists, doctors who study cause and development of diseases at a microscopic level.