A clinical laboratory performs experiments and research to diagnose and treat disease. A laboratory assistant is trained to complete a variety of tasks, including operating equipment, processing samples and tracking patient records.
Laboratory assistant training programs are found at the certificate level, and the majority of programs require applicants to be high school graduates with extensive coursework in biology, algebra, English and chemistry. Previous volunteer or work experience in a laboratory is also preferred, since this type of education provides hands-on experience working with physicians, patients and other medical professionals in detecting and treating illnesses. Graduates may also have to gain certification before seeking employment, depending on the state in which they wish to work.
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Laboratory Assistant Certificate of Completion
The certificate program discusses the role of the laboratory assistant and provides students with basic knowledge of equipment, laboratory procedures, materials, sterilization and safety practices. Instructors introduce students to the laws governing clinical laboratory operation, including those on patient confidentiality, data storage, sanitation, chemical handling and quality control. For students with medical training, some programs waive some of the prerequisites. Since phlebotomy is one of the duties of a laboratory assistant, students work with their teachers in a laboratory setting to understand basic techniques, like capillary puncture and venipuncture. Additional topics include:
- Blood borne pathogens
- Bodily fluids
- Blood exposure
- Specimen collection and transporting
Popular Career Options
Entry-level lab assistants may work in doctor's offices, testing laboratories, clinics, hospitals and research institutions to gather data, file, label and store specimens, document progress and prepare smears for analyzing. Under the supervision of a scientist, researcher or technician, entry-level employees may begin work by assisting with blood draws, cleaning equipment, ordering supplies and collecting specimens. A laboratory assistant may also perform administrative duties, like billing, computer work or filing. Assistants with an interest in research may seek a position as a laboratory technician, which involves more research-based work with scientists. A technician may advance to a laboratory supervisor or manager with experience.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
According to the American Medical Technologists, the requirement for licensure and certification for laboratory assistants varies by state, so students should research licensing requirements on their state's department of health website. Most employers seek candidates who hold a national certification by a professional certifying organization and a phlebotomy certification.
Laboratory assistant certification requires documented academic experience and typically a specific number of didactic and clinical laboratory hours, along with a computer-based examination testing areas, such as microbiology, phlebotomy, quality control, hematology and ethics. An application with the candidate's basic information, work experience and academic recommendation must be completed, along with the appropriate testing fee. Candidates must not have a prior criminal history with a felony conviction.
Laboratory assistants have several professional organizations that offer certification as a phlebotomist, including the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the National Phlebotomy Association and the American Certification Agency. High school graduates with transcripts from a medical training program, at least one year of phlebotomy experience and proof of clinical, dermal and venipuncture hours (hours vary per certifying agency) are eligible for the phlebotomy examination. Students should expect a computer-based test and practical examination of basic information, such as vein sites, equipment, safety, anatomy, physiology and overall blood collection.
Additionally, graduates of the laboratory assistant training program have several opportunities to stay informed in their field. The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (www.ascls.org), offers a wealth of material on their website regarding scholarships, news, career opportunities, web courses and continuing education. The American Medical Technologists, (www.amt1.com), hosts a national conference providing workshops and lectures to enhance professional development and provide continuing education. Additionally, some lab assistants will work in entry-level positions to gain experience before enrolling into a graduate program.
Laboratory assistant training programs can be found at the certificate level in a variety of settings, usually requiring a high school diploma or equivalent. Graduates may need to attain licensure or professional certification before becoming a laboratory assistant, depending on the state in which they wish to practice.