I get some interesting responses from people when I tell them, “what I do.” Some say, “Oh,” and you can tell by the look in their eyes they have no idea what you mean. Others say, “Oooooohhhhh,” and you can imagine that they see the lab scene from the “Frankenstein” movie in their mind. Still others say, “So, you’re a nurse?” And some actually get part of it right by saying, “So you draw blood.” What I “do” for a living is this: I’m a Medical Laboratory Technician. Here is what that means for you, the lay person.
When you go to the Doctor or the hospital because you aren’t feeling well you tell your provider your symptoms. Based on what you tell the Doctor, they will order testing on your blood, urine, and any other bodily fluids that they believe might give them answers as to why you don’t feel well. Our job as lab techs is to collect the samples from you and do the testing. We find the answers and give them to the Doctor. So when your throat is sore and you get it swabbed, I’m the one who finds out if you have strep. When your Doctor gives you the bad news, I’m the one who told him. We find all the serious answers to all the serious questions about your health so your Doctor can figure out how to get you well.
Part of my job is Phlebotomy, The drawing of blood. Hematology is the study of blood and blood components like white cells, red cells, platelets and and their various types. We do that too. We do Chemistry. Every time you have a test run like glucose, or cholesterol or kidney function or electrolytes, We do the testing. We also do Microbiology, which is the study of microorganisms like bacteria. Labs tech do Immunohematology, which is a fancy word for Blood Banking. Blood typing, and cross matching units of blood for surgery. We also do Immunology. That is the study of the body’s immune system and all the various things that go wrong with it. We also do Urinalysis. We use microscopes to look at the slides, count the cells and determine if the cells are healthy. We run instruments that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Not only do lab techs do all those things, we do them everyday and quite often we do a lot of them simultaneously. While talking on the phone. And looking something up on the computer. Lab techs work very hard to make sure the Doctor has all the information they need in order to help you get well. And no one else in the building, not Nurses, not Doctors not anyone, can do what we do. So now you know what Lab Techs do. If you know a lab tech, or if you meet one, give them a hug. They deserve it.