A Day in the Life: Full-Scope Medical Laboratory Assistant/Technician
March 31, 2023
Due to the significant shortage of Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLTs) in Ontario, it became more and more difficult to recruit this position to our Clinton Public, St. Marys Memorial and Seaforth Community Hospital sites.
In order to maintain service at these sites, HPHA began training the Medical Laboratory Assistant/Technicians (MLA/Ts) to work to their full scope-of-practice. Supported by a Senior and a Charge MLT as well as the Stratford General Hospital Core Lab MLTs, the talented and adaptive MLA/Ts work collaboratively to provide high quality results to patients and their health care providers across Huron and Perth counties.
MLA/Ts arrive at 7 a.m. and begin maintenance on the various analyzers in the lab and run quality control (QC) to ensure they are operating properly. They check humidity and temperatures in the lab and on all the refrigerators and freezers to make sure reagents, quality control, blood products and patient specimens are all being stored in the proper conditions.
MLA/Ts also go to the Emergency Department or Inpatient units to collect blood specimens on patients as ordered and return to the lab to receive the specimens and prepare them for analysis. Some specimens require centrifugation to separate them into blood cells and plasma. They also perform electrocardiograms on patients as ordered.
Once QC has been completed and reviewed remotely by a MLT and deemed acceptable, the MLA/T can begin loading patient samples for testing on the analyzers. If QC has failed, the MLA/T will have to troubleshoot in order to determine a root cause for the failure and repair the issue and then repeat QC so that it passes. This could include repeating QC, performing calibrations or taking apart the analyzer and replacing parts if necessary. MLA/Ts are in constant communication with MLTs who will help with troubleshooting issues or verifying patient results remotely. Specimens that will be tested in another lab are prepared for transport and sent to their destination by the MLA/Ts.
On top of daily maintenance and blood work, the MLA/Ts are responsible for receiving and maintaining inventory at each site, completing daily, weekly and monthly tasks as required and dealing with day-to-day issues as they come up. Each site has a MLA/T who is a Point-of-Care Coordinator that trains and re-certifies nurses annually to perform whole blood glucose testing at the bedside or urinalysis in the Emergency Department.
MLA/Ts are skilled at time-management as they often work alone and manage to complete all of these tasks! They have a critical role in patient care and the Clinton, St. Marys and Seaforth teams do an amazing job every day!
L to R: JJ and Sydney, MLA/Ts
JJ pursued a career in the laboratory because of the job security and the highly specialized skillset required. She is very proud to work to her full scope of practice. "Of course there have been challenges along the way," she says. "But I have learned so much and my passion for medical laboratory science has grown and continues to grow as I enter my eighth year with the Alliance."
Sydney, MLA/T chose this career as it gave her the opportunity to be a frontline healthcare worker but to also work behind the scenes. She enjoys being able to work within her scope but to also have the opportunity to develop new skills and experiences.
If you are a laboratory professional looking for an exciting career opportunity check out our latest job postings!