Health Care Professions: Clinical Laboratory Technician

Personal Perspective on Clinical Laboratory

In high school, I discovered my love for sciences and started making plan of a future in a science-oriented profession. One of my most intriguing spaces in the science world was the practical sessions in the school science laboratories. The setting just fascinated me and my peculiar attention to detail while the doing the experiments prompted the school lab technician to offer me advice on pursuing a career as a Medical Laboratory. 

To me, the clinical laboratory profession had an element of detective characteristics. I soon discovered that a clinical laboratory technician acts as a detective tasked with finding clinical clues to assist physicians to diagnose and treat disease. My love for biology and chemistry placed me in a good position to pursue an associate degree in the same. As a clinical laboratory technician, I act as a support to other players at the center stage of the healthcare delivery system. The health care profession thus offers me a chance to operate behind the scene with minimal patient contact but with great impact on their health well-being.

Being in the clinical laboratory profession was a perfect choice to me. The profession has different and multilevel functions in areas such as analysis, clinical decision making, information management, regulatory compliance, education, and quality assurance. To me, this was a good indicator that the profession has opportunities for career growth. 

To successfully fit in the clinical laboratory profession one needs to be able to relate well with the people, have the ability to be calm and to make a reasoned judgment. It is important that one also adheres to ethical and moral attitudes and principles. These are essential in gaining and maintaining the trust among the professional colleagues. These are qualities that I possessed and was sure that I would excel in this field.

I have come to discover that serving as a clinical laboratory technician requires a lot of personal and professional commitment. Experiences have made realize and understand that there is life behind every sample being tested. For this reason, there is a greater calling to being extremely detail-oriented. The tasks involved include compiling, categorizing, coding, and making calculations an aim of assisting the doctor make a diagnosis (Laposata, Proytcheva, Rutledge, & Stratton, 2010). This implies that missing a small detail may have a direct implication of how the patient will be treated. This made realize the importance of being good at problem-solving and precise communication. 

In carrying out the tasks as a clinical laboratory technician, some competencies need to be observed. One should be in able to apply technical and procedural aspects of laboratory testing carrying out chemical, microbiological, hematological procedures including the ability to make an independent judgment. It is also critical that one applies the most appropriate methodology for the respective tasks. One needs to be in a position to tell apart the anticipated results, unexpected and erroneous results.  It is also important for one to be well conversant with troubleshooting techniques that enables one to analyze the specimen integrity and apply quality control (Austin Community College, 2006).

Profession Background

A clinical laboratory technician in a healthcare facilities involved in the collection, and processing of samples from patients such as skin and fluid samples and using set procedures to diagnose the presence or absence of diseases thereby assisting the physicians in planning for the treatment plans of each patient and also ascertain their effectiveness.  The clinical laboratory technician plays a crucial role in the process of offering personalized care within a healthcare facility. Their work is essential in providing vital and important data for recognizing, and treating different health care conditions.

Historical Background

Clinical Laboratory Science has evolved with time. The innovations in this field have caused a shift in the manner of carrying out medical tests shift from tasting of urine to microscopy, molecular testing, and other sophisticated technological diagnostic methods. There have been three different periods in the history of medicine with each having unique methods of determining the diagnosis. The period of middle ages to the 18th century was characterized by bedside medicine. Between 1794 and 1848, hospital medicine came to rise thereby allowing for the introduction of medical laboratory (Berger, 1999).

The earliest forms of diagnosis that ancient physicians used were based on hearing and seeing. The ancient Greeks connected the presence of diseases to disorders of bodily fluid called humor. In the late medieval period, physicians used uroscopy for their analysis. The discovery of microscope helped reveal the cellular formation of human tissue and also easy identification of disease-causing micro-organism. Clinical laboratory only became rooted as a standard fixture of medicine on early 2oth Century (Race, Tiller, & Dysert, 2004). In the 18th Century, the advancements in medicine were more theoretical based. During this era, the laboratory measures helped discover the cause of coagulation. This period saws the refining of clinical diagnostic methods of percussion, temperature, heart rate and blood pressure measurements. The 19th century saw the introduction of sophisticated diagnostic techniques and emergence of laboratories. The most notable development in this period was the advances in bacteriology that informed more on water treatment and pasteurization of milk. New instruments were also made in this era to help in the diagnosis process (Race, Tiller, & Dysert, 2004).

Important Events, Discoveries, and People Who Influenced Clinical Laboratory

Animal Chemistry and Vitalism

The works of Antoine Francois de Fourcroy, who was a chemist and a non-practicing physician between 1755 and 1809, were the earliest plans of establishing clinical laboratories in hospitals (Rosenfeld, 2002). His proposal was on having laboratory near hospital wards to allow chemical analysis of urine and other excretions of the sick. This plan however flopped due to lack of adequate chemical methods.

Jons Jakob Berzelius shifted from medical practice to scientific research in the period between 1779 and 1848. From his works, he published a book on “Animal Chemistry” based on the knowledge at that time for animal tissues and fluids. He also contributed to organic chemistry.

Justus Liebeg between 1803 and 1873 developed a school of chemistry that advanced on animal chemistry as chemical reactions that conformed to laws of physics and chemistry. His works offered a quantitative method of observation into physiological chemistry (Rosenfeld, 2002).

Chemical analysis of Body Fluids

In early 19th century, chemistry was used in the understanding of a disease rather than aiding its relief. This was however changed by William Prout (1785-1850) who advocated for the use of chemistry to physiology in the treatment of diseases (Rosenfeld, 2002). He was credited with getting the link between chemistry and medical practice. Prout called for physiologists to indulge in chemistry to aid their research work. Using this prescribed approach, Richard Bright managed to show a correlation of edema, albumin in urine and the diseased kidney to diagnose chronic nephritis. Other famous names who made tremendous contribution to chemical analysis of body fluids include John Bostock (1773-1846), Alexander Marcet (1770-1822) and Thomas Hodgkin (1798-1866) (Race, Tiller, & Dysert, 2004).

Diagnostics Signs

Between the 1830s and 1840s, there was widespread of discoveries of new substances in healthy and diseased bodies thereby sparking an interest in the clinical chemistry. Joseph Scherer in his work coined the term “clinical chemical laboratory’. During this period, the analysis of urine shifted to volumetric methods from gravimetric techniques. Characteristics reactions were discovered for proteins, bile acids, sugar, and urea. Proteinuria and glycosuria, glucose and bile pigments in blood formed the diagnostics. (Rosenfeld, 2002).

Education and Certifications

In the late 1800 and early 1900, laboratory education was offered within hospital laboratories where the students, typically young women, were placed a tutelage of a pathologist and taught how to perform basic laboratory tests. Formalized education programs emerged after the World War 1. These programs required a high school diploma for acceptance. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) was formed in 1922 to oversee and standardize the training courses for laboratory technicians (Walz, 2013).

Between 1930 and 1940 the board of registry in ASCP raised the criteria for applying for registration and prepared a list of approved schools (Walz, 2013). The collaborative effort of ASCP, BOR and American Society of Clinical Laboratory Technicians helped to upgrade the status of a laboratory technician. In the 1970s the ASCP relinquished its mandate to oversee laboratory education programs, and the role was taken up by the American Society for Medical Technologist. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS) was established in 1973 and remains tasked with the role of accrediting laboratory education programs offered in hospitals and universities in the USA (Walz, 2013).

References

Berger, D. (1999). A Brief History of Medical DIagnosis and the Birth of the Clinical Laboratory.

Laposata, M., Proytcheva, M., Rutledge, J., & Stratton, C. (2010). Professional Quality Assurance in Laboratory Medicine. American Journal of Clinical Pathology, 2015.

Race, G., Tiller, W., & Dysert, P. (2004). A History of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Baylor University Medical Center. Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings, 42-55.

Rosenfeld, L. (2002). Clinical Chemistry Since 1800: Growth and Development. Clinical Chemistry.

Walz, S. (2013). Education & Training in Laboratory Medicine in the United States. The Journal of the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry, 1-3.

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