Friday, December 14, 2007

That thing I do

A few days ago, I wrote about one of our local hospitals starting up their own lab, and that now it looks like they are not going to continue that. Nothing is finalized yet, but we are hearing from reliable sources that it's likely that they will once again use us to do their lab work. This led to a discussion in the lab about our profession, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I write in my "About Me" section that I'm a microbiologist. That's only part of the picture. I'm actually a Medical Technologist, with a Bachelor's in Medical Technology, which means that I'm qualified and registered to work in all areas of the clinical laboratory. I went to college at Ball State University, and the MT program there was essentially the same as pre-Med (our program lacked one Physics course that pre-Med students had to take). Many MT's go on to med school, and I briefly thought about it, but I just didn't want to be a doctor! When I was doing my internship, when I did my Microbiology rotation I knew that was what I wanted to do full-time. After working a couple of years as a generalist, the manager of Micro asked me if I wanted to start training in that department, and that's where I ended up.

I won't write extensively about Medical Technology, but I've included a Wikipedia link that explains it all pretty well. Sometimes you have to be careful about what you find on Wiki, but this is actually quite accurate. One thing that is different in my experience is that the article says that internships are usually 20-26 weeks. That's true now, but when I went to school, my internship was a full 12 months. Also, most MT's don't do phlebotomy now, but my first job was in a smaller hospital, and I had to do morning phlebotomy rounds. (I'm glad I got that experience, but I wouldn't want to do it now.) I'm registered with ASCP, and while I don't believe it's a requirement to have your registration, most places won't allow you to do full MT duties or give you full pay if you haven't taken the national registry exam. Some states also require a state license. Some MT's are also registered with NCA.

One of the things in the article that is very true is that there is a national shortage. A lot of programs have closed or downsized, and the number of techs, especially with experience, is shrinking at an alarming rate. We're sort of the "secret" healthcare workers, because we don't have much patient contact, so people really don't know much about our profession. Our low profile and a low compensation rate (at least compared to other healthcare workers) considering our education and training have led to a serious shortage. Those of us that are of the baby boomer era will be retiring in the coming years, and the shortage will only get worse. We're fortunate in that our lab is still affiliated with a local university to provide internships, so some of those students stay on to work in our lab, and we've definitely got some great newer techs in our department and in the lab.

I think the most interesting thing in the article is this: "Laboratory results are 80% of a doctor's diagnosis." My coworkers and fellow techs don't get much recognition, but I think we can all be proud of the part we play in patient care.

Beth, MT(ASCP)


buckoclown said...

I have had a tour of the lab, and can confirm that it is impressive and high tech.  The work they do is challenging, I liken it to being an air-traffic controller.  Thanks for keeping the public safe :o)

rocketb52 said...

I always knew what you did, but now I'm even more impressed. Whew. :)

luvrte66 said...

Awww, shucks. Hey, I'll be sure to let y'all know when it's National Medical Laboratory Week. I'll accept cash donations. <grin>