Job Title: Lab Office Tech
Type of Company: I work for a small not for profit hospital in northwestern Vermont.
Education: BA in History and Chinese, Middlebury College
Previous Experience: I worked as an aide in a residential community care home. I realized that working in the local hospital would give me access to health insurance and second shift work. This was more important to me than working in my field.
Job Tasks: I'm responsible for obtaining, labelling and preparing specimens for medical testing. So, I poke people with sharp needles (phlebotomy) to get blood samples, give them containers to collect urine and/or feces and help respiratory therapists obtain sputum samples.
I care for a wide range of people: infants who need routine newborn screenings, pediatric patients, outpatients coming in for a variety of testing, and inpatients who vary greatly in the severity of their illnesses. Often I'll deal with an eighty year age span in the course of a shift. This variety keeps me interested but it also means I'm constantly having to shift my focus to make sure I meet the needs of the different populations. Because I work in a hospital setting I also have to be prepared to help out in emergency settings, if there are multiple victims of a car crash or some other accident I might be called down to the ER to draw blood or deliver blood or just be the extra pair of hands.
I research different tests to make sure we're getting the right specimen: some blood tests are done on whole blood, some on serum, others on plasma. Temperature and light exposure can also effect the results of some tests.
To prepare the specimens for testing I log them into our computer system and print out bar coded labels. Accuracy is very very very important. Mislabeling a specimen could result in harm to a patient or, although this isn't likely, even death.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part is dealing with so many different people. I also like the phlebotomy. It's kind of like looking for a needle in a haystack in the dark which makes it challenging and interesting. Most people hate getting their blood drawn so if I can reassure them and make it a painless experience that's always good. I also like that I can work second shift which supports my other interests.
The worst part is that you're dealing with pee and poop and sputum and other even less attractive bodily fluids. The pay isn't great either.
1. volunteer in a hospital to see whether you're really interested in healthcare work.
2. While you can take courses, many places do allow on the job training. Even if there isn't a job in the lab, take whatever hospital job you can find as it's often easier to do an internal transfer than apply cold.
3. Make sure you have a thick skin. Folks getting there bloodwork done are under stress and apt to take it out on you.
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