How to Become a Medical Technologist

Medical Specialties

Medical Technologist

What is a Medical Technologist? 

A Medical technologist is a scientist who is able to:


  • Pinpoint why someone is feeling ill
  • Find cancer, diabetes, HIV, or any harmful germ activity in a person’s body
  • Scrutinize fragments of blood, urine, stool, body fluids or mucus to find answers
  • Can tell how much medicine a person needs for certain conditions


The most interaction a patient has with a medical technologist is a sheet of paper. Even this is rather used by a physician than a patient. When it comes to contact, an MT’s maximum contact with a patient is what some would consider a gruesome looking substance.


But these faceless, nameless white-coated scientists enthusiastically work to impact lives every day. We might not see them as they move meticulously about the hum of machinery, drawing pipettes of fluid from test tubes, and staring into high-powered microscopes. However, your life can be dramatically altered by their skills once you get a sheet of paper with your name on it.


Whether it’s measuring how much protein is in a patient’s urine, or sorting through micro-organisms to find the disease, the role of a medical technologist requires a stringent attention to detail. Here are some examples:


  • A new born baby could get ill and die if blood isn’t accurately investigated in the mother
  • A patient could develop severe blood clots if the time measured for forming clots wasn’t correctly calculated

Duties of Medical     Technologist


The duties of an MT is quite diverse, and no two days are the same. You may be responsible for repetitive work on one day, with the following being high tempo and requiring you to use many of these skills:


  • Handle incoming traffic on orders coming into the laboratory
  • Perform simple and intricate testing
  • Use science, technology, and equipment to identify abnormalities
  • Determine blood type and grouping
  • Check blood levels for chemicals
  • Match blood for transfusions
  • Upkeep of expensive equipment
  • Update reliable information on a database
  • Develop or adjust procedures to improve accuracy of testing  
  • Inform medical staff on patient conditions

Medical technologists are the backbone of the medical industry. Their critical thinking skills and sound judgement are assets to the healthcare system’s success. Their appetite for science and technology combined with a wide knowledge of various medical conditions are invaluable resources.



Bonuses and Benefits of Medical Technologist

A large portion of people who decide to become medical technologists are happy and fulfilled in their work selection, because of activities and also remuneration.


Remuneration as a medical technologist will depend on how much experience you have and where you decide to live. In a coastal area, you can expect an income above market rate.


There are plenty of opportunities for progression into a managerial or senior position in a laboratory which can provide a significant increase. Alternatively, these professionals can specialize in a specific skill as mentioned below where an above average rate will be offered.


Your benefit package may include the following:


  • Medical coverage
  • Dental coverage
  • Vision coverage

Work Environment of Medical Technologist

General Environment

1

The work of a medical technologist is much more focused on laboratory work than patients. There is very little interaction with the public, as you will receive your work and instructions from doctors and physicians.


Work is done in well-lit laboratories that are kept spotlessly clean to prevent sample contamination. It’s a medical technologist’s responsibility to maintain cleanliness. Work is done according to set procedures.


Psychologically, you must be prepared for working alone in the lab. The physical challenge is to function effectively while being on your feet most of the time and occasionally moving patients while you draw blood and fluid samples. You must also contend with loud noise, as some lab equipment makes quite a racket.


And then you must accept the dangers of working in an environment where you’re surrounded by harmful substances:


  • Specimens with harmful bacteria or traces of diseases
  • Dangerous chemicals

Wearing protective clothing is mandatory:


  • Glasses
  • Gloves
  • Masks

However, there’s always a chance of an accident and that you may be contaminated with a dangerous substance. This adds some pressure to the daily tasks.


This work will often be done on your own instead of on a team, though you can discuss outcomes of tests with other professionals.

Hospitals

2

In a hospital, you shouldn’t see yourself as separate from the medical teams. Even though your work happens in a laboratory instead of a hospital room or operating theater, it’s a vital part of patients’ recovery. Your insight helps doctors determine treatment and even basic blood transfusions need medical technologists. They look at blood before any transfusions start, to ensure it will be compatible with the patients’.


As part of a hospital team, your work is done in a laboratory where you will analyze samples to either detect dangerous elements—such as parasites—or give feedback on the components of a patient’s body fluid.


In a hospital environment you can imagine your work will be vital to someone’s well-being. There is therefore a huge responsibility to be:


  • Accurate
  • On time
  • Focused on detail

This does add stress to the role of an MT.

Social Environment

3

You’ll work on your own, but you will be surrounded with other technologists. Most labs require more than one to get all the work done. You may not converse much, as everyone must focus on their work. This requires respect for each other’s space in the lab. You may also offer opinions on each other’s work from time to time.


Outside the laboratory you’ll interact with doctors and nurses to discuss cases, but because you won’t be in constant contact with them, they may not become your close friends.

Range of Specialty Labs

4

The skills of a medical technologist are vital in many medically related scenarios. One example is IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) that doesn’t have to happen in a hospital and is often provided in more private clinics. An MT will have to help gather, handle, and analyze samples.

Academia and Other

5

The skills of an MT can be used to treat patients, but also to find new treatment techniques. In university laboratories. medical technologists can help with research. Here, you’ll usually be part of a team, which has some social benefits if you don’t prefer working in seclusion.


Private institutions—for example those doing research—can also employ medical technologists to assist in gathering and analyzing samples.


Working Hours of Medical Technologist

Your contract may require an average work schedule of working weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Such a contract will result in 40-hour weeks.


However, your weekly working hours may be much more when you’re part of hospital staff. When you do shift work it will run into evenings, weekends, and holidays too.

Work Schedules of Medical Technologist

A laboratory can work according to strict schedules for regular tests and samples. But occasionally the outcome of a test is needed urgently to help save someone’s life. Therefore, some hospitals’ laboratories—and even private labs—are open 24/7.


Depending on your contract, the role of an MT can require evening and weekend hours. You may not have to be on site the whole time, but the facility must be able to contact you while it’s your shift in case urgent work comes in.


Important Qualities of Medical Technologist

An MT has quite a unique mix of skills when compared to other medical professionals. There’s quite a focus on technology during daily tasks. Here are some characteristics that usually make the job easier, and get the work done well.

Qualities

An interest in technology

Most of your work will incorporate technology such as computers. You’ll be expected to understand software and know how to work with hardware components. This will be used to maintain updated records spreadsheets, EMR (Electronic Medical Records), and LIS (Laboratory Information System). Being skilled at these will mean work can be done faster and work accuracy will be maintained.

Organized

Imagine hundreds of patients’ samples being processed in one laboratory. One labeling or archiving mistake can disrupt a patient’s treatment and even ruin a hospital’s reputation. That’s how important proper organizing skills are for medical technologists. If you manage the lab, you must put processes in place. If you’re working under a manager, it’s essential you follow the necessary procedures and systems to ensure all patients’ safety. A laboratory has stocks of many dangerous chemicals. You must assist in keeping track of stock to ensure it’s not misused or stolen.

Good communication skills

You need to discuss test results with other medical professionals. While they will read your reports, you will also be consulted in person. It’s essential you communicate your findings accurately, so treatments plans will be correct. Communication also includes writing. Your reports must show clearly what the outcome is of a test, but also the procedures you followed. This is necessary for accurate record keeping and audits.

Assertiveness

Misunderstandings can cause fatal problems for patients. It’s your responsibility to speak up whenever you know your knowledge will help a patient. You can’t keep quiet about vital information, so you can’t feel too shy or intimidated to communicate with others on the treatment team.

Self-disciplined

You won’t have someone prompting you or giving you a schedule all the time. It’s your responsibility to organize your day so vital test results are available in a timely fashion, as required by physicians. Since you often work on your own, you determine your speed, accuracy, and diligence.

Focused

During these work sessions it’s vital you stay focused. If you get distracted easily, you’ll miss important details when viewing samples or reading reports. Since you won’t be stimulated by a team working together around you, you must find ways of stimulating yourself, such as listening to music. Focus is also essential because you may work with dangerous substances. An accident could cause you or a co-worker to be contaminated, so staying focused at all times is essential.

Attention to detail

The outcome of a test may show miniscule anomalies. Can you notice these under a microscope or on test results?

Works well under stress

When tests are urgent you’ll feel the pressure of getting them done quickly. Will this cause you to panic and feel flustered, or simply focus and work faster? Because of the detailed nature of this work, you can’t let stress cause your work quality to plummet.

Analytical and problem-solving skills

Your work doesn’t stop at compiling the outcome of a test. How does this affect the patient? You must corroborate with physicians and help find suitable treatment techniques. For this you must be able to think creatively and match problems with solutions.

Methodical

You should enjoy working according to a prescribed procedure. If you don’t you’ll get frustrated by the safety and work processes set in place in every lab.

Curious

You can never keep to the status quo. The medical field continuously has new inventions and developments, also in terms of testing samples in the lab. You should stay abreast of new technology that can help your lab do more accurate work. You may inform your managers of these items, or volunteer to be trained in new aspects.

Excellent motor skills

You’ll be working with small samples and delicate equipment. Will your motor skills hinder or help this process?


Similar Occupations

After qualifying as a medical technologist, you can specialize in one of these fields:


  • Immunology
  • Become a phlebotomist
  • Be a histotechnician
  • Qualify as a microbiology technologist

If you’re interested in the field of study, but you’re after a different profession, why not try these?


  • Animal health technologist
  • Work in biotechnology
  • Chemical technologist
  • Health information management technician
  • Technical sales specialist
  • Pathologist’s assistant
  • Food science technologist
  • Assayer

For these you can use your skills, but you won’t necessarily need a license to practice.



Projected Future of a Medical Technologist

Career Prospects

The role and work of MTs are vital to the medical field, but what can you expect in future?


This is an easier medical field to gain access to than many others. You may even start as a technician and then develop your career towards becoming an MT. IT’s also smart to take your time in considering your ultimate career goal. Because these professionals are vital in many spheres, you may discover your ideal career goal as you progress.

Job Outlook

The roles of medical technologists are important to medical processes, but the growth in job opportunities is much lower than some other medical professions.

         Potential Increase

While some medical positions may experience a growth of more than 20%, medical technologists’ positions will probably grow by the average for all professions, around 15%.


With around 330,000 job positions available in 2010, the number should grow to 373 500 by 2020.

Career Options

The field is quite vast, as the skills are used in various environments. Through additional training a technologist can specialize in fields such as microbiology or immunology.


If you love the role of an MT, you can advance your career by managing others. In a supervisory role you may have an entire laboratory—and the personnel—under your guidance.


How to Become a Medical Technologist

Note that the path to becoming a medical technician is much different than that of being a medical technologist. A technician requires a 2-year postsecondary certificate in lab-related programs. There’s also the possibility—if you already have a science related degree—of following medical facilities’ 1-year programs to qualify for such a position.


Becoming a technologist takes much longer, but it’s still a shorter training period than for some other medical professions. You’ll need the following:



Finishing high school with high enough scores. These subjects must form part of your curriculum:


  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics

A four-year bachelor’s degree that centers around these subjects (Note that some institutions incorporate an internship into the program):


  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Statistics
  • Micro biology

A master’s program is an optional extra if you plan on advancing in a certain field

Many states and countries also expect you to attend a licensing program before you can practice. In the US this can be with one of these institutions:


  • American Society of Clinical Pathology
  • American Association of Bio Analysts
  • National Credentialing Agency of Laboratory Personnel
  • American Medical Technologists

Perhaps you’ll love helping people, but you prefer working behind the scenes. That’s an apt description of the role of a medical technologist. As a bonus, the training period is shorter than for most other medical professions, making it easier to complete the degree if time or cost is a challenge. Since over 80% of physicians’ decisions are based on test results, you’ll be the backbone of many treatment plans. Remember that and you’ll experience daily job satisfaction.



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