laboratory testing plays a crucial role in the detection, diagnosis, and
treatment of disease. Clinical laboratory technologists -- also referred
to as clinical laboratory scientists or medical technologists -- and
clinical laboratory technicians, also known as medical technicians or
medical laboratory technicians, perform most of these tests.
personnel examine and analyze body fluids, and cells. They look for
bacteria, parasites, and other microorganisms; analyze the chemical
content of fluids; match blood for transfusions; and test for drug
levels in the blood that show how a patient is responding to treatment.
Technologists also prepare specimens for examination, count cells, and
look for abnormal cells in blood and body fluids. They use microscopes,
cell counters, and other sophisticated laboratory equipment. They also
use automated equipment and computerized instruments capable of
performing a number of tests simultaneously. After testing and examining
a specimen, they analyze the results and relay them to physicians.
increasing automation and the use of computer technology, the work of
technologists and technicians has become less hands-on and more
analytical. The complexity of tests performed, the level of judgment
needed, and the amount of responsibility workers assume depend largely
on the amount of education and experience they have. Clinical laboratory
technologists usually do more complex tasks than clinical laboratory
technologists perform complex chemical, biological, hematological,
immunologic, microscopic, and bacteriological tests. Technologists
microscopically examine blood and other body fluids. They make cultures
of body fluid and tissue samples, to determine the presence of bacteria,
fungi, parasites, or other microorganisms. Technologists analyze samples
for chemical content or a chemical reaction and determine concentrations
of compounds such as blood glucose and cholesterol levels. They also
type and cross match blood samples for transfusions.
technologists evaluate test results, develop and modify procedures, and
establish and monitor programs, to ensure the accuracy of tests. Some
technologists supervise clinical laboratory technicians.
in small laboratories perform many types of tests, whereas those in
large laboratories generally specialize. Clinical chemistry
technologists, for example, prepare specimens and analyze the chemical
and hormonal contents of body fluids. Microbiology technologists examine
and identify bacteria and other microorganisms. Blood bank
technologists, or immunohematology technologists, collect, type, and
prepare blood and its components for transfusions. Immunology
technologists examine elements of the human immune system and its
response to foreign bodies. Cytotechnologists prepare slides of body
cells and examine these cells microscopically for abnormalities that may
signal the beginning of a cancerous growth. Molecular biology
technologists perform complex protein and nucleic acid testing on cell
technicians perform less complex tests and laboratory procedures than
technologists do. Technicians may prepare specimens and operate
automated analyzers, for example, or they may perform manual tests in
accordance with detailed instructions. They usually work under the
supervision of medical and clinical laboratory technologists or
laboratory managers. Like technologists, clinical laboratory technicians
may work in several areas of the clinical laboratory or specialize in
just one. Phlebotomists collect blood samples, for example, and
histotechnicians cut and stain tissue specimens for microscopic
examination by pathologists.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.