Happy National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week!!
Yes, it starts on a weekend. Someone’s got to keep the lab running, you know. A hospital lab never closes.
It’s a week for celebrating all those who work in laboratories – phlebotomists, cytotechnologists, histotechnologists, pathologist’s assistants, medical technologists and technicians of all stripes. Hug a tech this week if you can find one. Especially if it’s me. I like hugs.
This past year has taught me some things about my profession. Namely, that not everyone works in a hospital. Obviously, I knew that – in med tech school they told us we could work in all sorts of places. But when everyone who got hired right after graduation found a job in a hospital lab, it was made pretty obvious to me that most of the jobs were in hospitals. I followed the tide and worked in a hospital too, for quite a while. Two hospitals, in fact. I started in a blood bank in a big Montreal hospital, working any shift they had for me, going from days to nights to evenings within a single week sometimes. Then I got to Maryland and worked in a core lab, doing everything a med tech could possibly do, from blood bank to chemistry to basic microbiology and everything in between. But when it was time for a lifestyle change, I looked outside my comfortable box and discovered that a med tech can still be a med tech outside of the hospital basement.
Where I am now is a strange hybrid between a manufacturing company and a blood bank. I’m not dealing with bleeding patients; instead, I’m making products that will be used in reference labs across the country so that people there can do a better job dealing with bleeding patients. It’s fascinating and I’m learning a lot, especially when it comes to quality assurance, documentation, and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). Almost everyone there has the same degree as I do (plus some extras), and many of them also started in hospital labs. Now, they’re submitting paperwork to the FDA, developing new products, performing extensive environmental monitoring, filling vials in a pristine clean-room, and even controlling document distribution. What a different world!
I had applied for a job at LabCorp previously, and that job would have had me running a STAT lab, drawing blood, and even taking patients’ vital signs like blood pressure and temperature. For someone who likes more patient contact, a job like that could be a dream. Not so for me.
Looking over the possibilities in the online job listings, I could work in a fertility clinic, doing semen analysis and bloodwork, and assisting in preservation of eggs and embryos. I could work for the Food and Drug Administration in one of their labs, testing products and water for bacteria, or go out and do inspections of other labs. I could work for one of the companies making laboratory instruments, testing them, selling them, or training people how to use them. I could branch out into computers and work with a hospital’s lab information system. I could teach medical technology at a university. I could get an advanced certification and become a manager somewhere. I could work in quality assurance, public health, forensic labs… so many possibilities. I’d need some extra education for some of these, but it’s wonderful to know how many options are out there for someone with my degree. And if all else fails, there are always the hospital labs, chronically understaffed and always looking for fresh techs. Even if I’d have to work nights or weekends, I am reassured by the fact that I will always be able to find a way to make a living doing what I enjoy. I’m grateful for that.