High demand for area lab technicians

Added Date Wednesdaynesday 14 October 2015 - 5:15 PM    Hits 3744    Comments 0


Employment of laboratory technicians is projected to grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

An increase in the aging population is expected to lead to a greater need to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer or Type 2 diabetes, through laboratory procedures. Medical laboratory technicians will be in demand, to use and maintain the equipment needed for diagnosis and treatment.

Federal health legislation, such as the Affordable Care Act, will increase the number of patients who have access to health insurance, increasing patient access to medical care. As a result, demand for the services of laboratory personnel will grow.

"It would be a great field to get into. There is a shortage of lab technicians in Houston," said Dr. Peter Hu, program director, molecular genetic technology, MD Anderson. "The job itself is highly secure. Once people get into this career, they tend to stay there for the rest of their professional careers."

Hu said that many current lab technicians have been working for a long time, and are nearing retirement.

"That will create a huge vacuum in this field. People will have to be hired to replace them," Hu said.

"There's a drastic shortage of lab technicians in the Houston area," said Martha Rushing, laboratory director, Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital. "Also, the aging population has increased demand for this career."

Rushing said that good skills for a lab technician are attention to detail, multitasking, and the ability to work under high stress.

"Work shifts vary, but hospitals operate 24/7," said Rushing, when asked what type of shifts lab technicians usually work.

Laboratory technicians use biomedical instrumentation and technology to collect, examine and test body fluids, tissue cells, and other substances. Typically, they work under the guidance of laboratory technologists or laboratory managers.

Technicians generate important data for identifying and treating cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and many other health conditions. They are committed to quality, patient safety, service, and efficiency.

Technicians usually need an associate's degree or a postsecondary certificate. Some states require that technicians be licensed. Requirements vary by state and specialty. While certification is not required to enter the occupation in all cases, employers often prefer to hire certified lab staff.

Training programs to get started as a lab technician are available at many community colleges. The coursework includes the theoretical and practical aspects of each of the major lab disciplines. Students learn about laboratory safety, hygiene, personal protective equipment, instrumentation, clinical chemistry, hematology, microbiology, serology, immunohematology and urinalysis.

Important qualities for someone interested in this career include the ability to use technology, dexterity, excellent judgment skills, and physical stamina, since many lab technicians spend most of their work shifts on their feet.

After additional education, work experience, or certification, technicians may specialize in one of many areas of laboratory science, such as immunology, histotechnology or clinical chemistry.

Lab technicians work in such diverse medial settings as hospitals, clinics, physicians' office labs and other places.

The greater Houston area is a great place for lab technicians to look for jobs, since it has one of the world's largest medical centers.

Currently there are about 2,600 medical and clinical lab technicians employed in the area.