As a medical laboratory technician, you’ll be part of an expanding and in-demand workforce in Canada, but you’ll need more than interest and education to succeed. Every medical laboratory technician should be:
If you’re not interested in how laboratory science works—or the human body, for that matter—this work will get boring fast. Equally important is your desire to learn, because medical science and technology aren’t slowing down any time soon. The more natural your pursuit of knowledge, the better you’ll suit this job.
Science is all about the details, so it shouldn’t surprise you that this is a career that requires you to pay close attention to what you’re doing—all the time. As a medical laboratory technician, you must be self-sufficient and painstakingly accurate, lest you negatively affect a patient’s test results.
Good with people
Actually, you have to be more than good. Most medical laboratory technicians interact with patients daily, and sometimes—usually when collecting samples for testing—these interactions aren’t pleasant. “It doesn’t matter if you can get blood from most people without causing any pain, you’ll encounter someone who has really difficult veins, or is extremely sensitive; or you’ll just be unlucky and cause them pain,” says Craig O’Brien, a medical laboratory technician with a focus on blood work at a Toronto hospital. “Some will scream, some will cry, and others will curse you out. It’s really hard to continue after one of those patients, but it’s part of the medical treatment process, and needs to be done.”
Knowing how to keep patients as comfortable as possible and handle these situations is paramount. Remember that working with people can be rewarding too. “I often get told I’m the best lab tech they’ve ever had, that I’m very good at my job, and receive their profuse thanks,” says O’Brien. “It feels really good.”
A desirable quality in any occupation, patience is essential as a medical laboratory technician. It’s required while dealing with patients, their families, and other healthcare professionals; as well as when collecting samples, prepping equipment, or performing other duties.
Patience is also integral to securing a stable job as a medical laboratory technician, as most entry-level jobs are temporary. “Be patient,” says O’Brien. “If you’re very flexible with your availability, consistently on time, and pleasant and courteous, management is more likely to keep you.”