A medical lab technician (MLT) performs complex chemical, biological, hematological, immunological, microscopic, and bacteriological tests; matches blood for transfusions; and tests for drug levels in the blood.
They are behind-the-scenes heroes and do not interact with patients directly unless it is to draw blood or perform a test.
The collected samples are the first links that corroborate the clinical findings for the diagnosis of a disease. Therefore healthcare professionals like a phlebotomist, technician, or nurse, should be very cautious while collecting the samples.
Preparation before collection of specimen
- Documentation and labeling of the specimen holder-
- the name and date of birth of the patient, and patient identification number
- date and time of collection of sample
- the type of sample and wherever applicable the anatomic site of origin in more specific terms with some clinical information (eg., dog bite wound on right forefinger)
- Check for any antimicrobial drugs administered already to the patient –
Ideally, the microbiological samples should be collected before beginning any treatment with exceptions in seriously diseased conditions. The microflora gets altered on the administration of antibiotics which can lead to potentially misleading culture results.
- Avoid contamination and spillage-
The MLT should make sure that all containers for sample collection are sterile with close-fitting lids. These should be packed along with the laboratory test request form, TRF, in a sealed packet with separate divisions for the sample and the TRF.
- Hands should be washed before and after sample collection and appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn while collecting or handling the specimen.
- A fully prepared first aid box should be available before any procedure is carried out.
- Informed written consent in case of diseases like HIV should be taken. A TRF which is duly filled and stamped by the treating clinician and readiness of the patient to get it done is considered as implied consent to perform the test. A standard patient consent form with the signature of the patient is also collected before any sample collection.
- Patient assistance-
- The patient should be explained briefly the procedure of sample collection.
- Relevant history should be documented.
- The patient should be reassured of the procedure to be performed.
- Proceedings should be carried out with minimum discomfort to the patient.
- The technician should never tell the patient that it will not hurt.
- Prerequisites of sample collection for laboratory investigations like approximately 8 to 10 hours of fasting for determining the fasting blood sugar levels should be communicated to the patient.
- Sterile syringe with needle, gloves, spirit swabs for protection of both patient and phlebotomist should be available.
- The puncture site must be cleansed to prevent microbiological contamination of specimen and infection at the venipuncture site.
- The technician should be aware of changes if any in patient’s comfort levels throughout the procedure not only to decrease patient anxiety but also to minimize movements that may affect the efficacy of the procedure.
Care post collection of specimen
Post-procedural care should be taken too by the technician.
1. Applying a pressure dressing on the site of specimen collection-
A pressure bandage has no adhesive and is used to control bleeding and encourage clotting without constricting normal blood circulation.
In case of needlestick injury or any other skin puncture or wound, the wound should be washed and some bleeding should be encouraged.
2. Data security-
Only Lab Technician staff specifically assigned for this purpose should be able to access the data and a routine backup should be taken.
3. Microbiology laboratory results that are reported should be accurate, significant, and clinically relevant and specimens of poor quality must be rejected.
Getting the right diagnosis is thus contingent upon laboratory results that are accurate and clinically relevant. Confirming the provisional diagnosis of the clinician, ruling out a diagnosis, detecting disease, and regulating therapy are dependent on the tests performed by the medical laboratory technicians.
In recent times, the increased demand of DMLT holders for laboratory tests and their sensitivity and specificity has led to the introduction of more specialized and sophisticated procedures including automation and computerization. The medical laboratory science practitioner of today must, of necessity, be theoretically sound and practically effective in his/her discipline.