What Does A Laboratory Assistant Do?
Laboratory assistants are essential members of hospitals, clinical diagnostic laboratories and research settings. They play a very vital role in gathering samples of different specimens like blood, tissue and bodily fluids like urine to be closely scrutinized in the laboratory to check for abnormalities and help doctors arrive at an accurate diagnosis of a patient’s condition. In the research setting, laboratory assistants also collect specimens of various substances so it can be studied under a microscope or using advanced technological equipment.
Although laboratory assistants typically work under the supervision or upon the instruction of healthcare professionals in hospitals, diagnostic laboratories and doctor’s offices, they often perform many tasks independently. In research laboratories, they also work closely with experienced scientists but are also expected to conduct many procedures on their own. The most common task of lab assistants is collecting, preparing and handling the specimens that will be studied. They need to make sure that the specimens gathered are not contaminated with any foreign substances so that the results that can be derived from them will be accurate. In hospitals and other healthcare settings, they may have to physically help fragile and sick patients when collecting blood and tissue samples from them.
Laboratory assistants must always follow the safety protocol of the facility they are working in when collecting and handling specimens and substances. There are specimens that could potentially infect the lab assistant with a deadly disease or chemicals that are possibly toxic. To lessen the risk of infection or exposure, lab assistants must wear protective clothing like masks, goggles and gloves.
In addition to gathering and handling specimens, laboratory assistants are also expected to prepare the equipment and instruments that will be needed to perform the actual test. When doing the tests, they see to it that all the instructions are followed so that what comes out is a credible result. They also carefully record the findings of their test in a journal or on the computer. In healthcare facilities, the results are also reflected in the patient’s medical record and are used by doctors as bases for their treatment plans. Thus, laboratory assistants must ensure that the right results are entered into the corresponding patient’s record since any mix up can have disastrous and life-threatening consequences.
Laboratory assistants are expected to keep all the equipment in the laboratory in excellent working condition. Thus, they must follow the manual on how to care for these instruments. They must immediately notify their supervisors for cases of malfunctions so that the necessary repairs can be undertaken by authorized personnel. However, for minor adjustments, most laboratory assistants are usually equipped to make minor fixes.
In addition to making sure that all the equipment and instruments are in good working order, laboratory assistants are also expected to keep an inventory of the laboratory’s stock of supplies and order these from suppliers before they run out. Lab experiments and tissue or blood exams cannot be performed without things like reagents or other materials. As such, laboratory assistants must see to it that the supplies are complete and sufficient.