Laboratories are facilities typically adjunct to hospitals and clinics. But they can be stand-alone amenities, in some instances. Whatever the setup, laboratory workers are your go-to when your physician needs to have your body checked and analyzed to confirm a diagnosis. Like any other healthcare worker, the nature of a lab employee’s job exposes them to potentially dangerous and disease-causing pathogens.
Despite the dangers, there are about 338,000 clinical laboratory workers in the United States as of 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These medical staffs are considered frontline workers and have a crucial responsibility to perform tests accurately.
What Makes A Good Lab Worker?
Anyone who wants to start a career in the healthcare sector can do so after getting a bachelor’s degree in the medical-related course. Lab workers are often graduates of a medical technology and biology course. Meanwhile, clinical laboratory technicians typically complete an associate’s degree program for two years.
States impose diverse requirements for lab workers, depending on the staff’s field. Most require certification and a license, though. For this particular occupation, clinical and laboratory experience are crucial. A lab employee must be good at practicing lab skills, lab management, and perform safety procedures.
- Technology-friendly: To be a good laboratory technologist, one has to be adept at using machines, given that most medical equipment these days use advanced technologies. Information systems care is widely used to help in the decision-making process, being that it promotes collaboration with the other seasoned staff, provides the latest information, and facilitates better interpretation of results, among others.
- Detail-oriented: Lab workers also need to be detail-oriented to perform tests flawlessly. When it comes to staying safe and getting an accurate reading, a lab worker should follow all procedures diligently. Cutting corners should never be an option.
- Agile: Possessing great hand-and-eye coordination is the main skill for laboratory workers, being that they need to ensure that they don’t get pricked with needles—one of the main causes of pathogen contamination— or take time to adjust laboratory instruments.
- Resourceful: Apart from exposure to heightened risks of infection, working inside the laboratory has its accompanying challenges. Lab personnel should be able to find a way to work around these problems.
Someone who gathers and analyzes body fluids like blood, vomit, saliva, and other bodily fluids is highly hazardous because it can carry disease-carrying pathogens. These organisms, particularly viruses, can mutate easily; a lab worker should be aware of the latest risks posed by these pathogens. Training, written journals, and other online resources can all help you become a better healthcare worker.
Finding Journals And Training Materials
Before actually setting foot inside the laboratory and peering into the microscope as a lab worker, you’re required to attend basic training courses such as Laboratory Safety Training and Bloodborne Pathogens Training. The training should be conducted annually to healthcare workers, lab personnel, included.
If you want to find out about the basic training courses, and possibly the materials included in the lecture, check out the following sources.
- From Your Lab Supervisor
Your lab supervisor is an important resource for how things are done in the workplace. More importantly, they should be able to train you to become a better employee by enabling you to improve your skillset.
There are basic trainings that all laboratory workers are mandated to take, as earlier mentioned. As a fresh lab worker, you should be able to take them or ask your supervisor for a training slot. The human resources department should also be supportive of you taking these trainings not only to improve your craft but in taking on other duties, as well – if that’s the route you want to take.
- Government Health Agency Sites
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
This is the leading public health organization in the United States. It has been the most active in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. But make no mistake, as this agency is also taking charge of other issues including violence, environmental health, workplace safety, chronic and infectious diseases, among other health subjects.
CDC’s site allows a medical practitioner to search for training for a specific field and to acquire continuing education training, as well.
For lab workers, the CDC has specific training for:
- Biological safety in a virtual laboratory, which uses virtual reality technologies
- Information systems such as laboratory information management system
- New testing procedures and validation processes
- Laboratory safety protocol in detecting potential biothreats even while in a safe environment
- Basics of personal protective equipment
- Laboratory informatics that focuses on data analysis
- Information about specific biohazards including Bacillus anthracis or the dreaded anthrax
- Molecular biology that’s divided into several modules –all focusing on laboratory safety and procedures
- Fundamentals of microscopy, microbiology, and biochemicals
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)
The National Institutes of Health is run by the US Department of Health and Human Services. It’s an organization that seeks to enhance the quality of life and extend the lifespan of individuals by performing advanced biomedical researches aimed at minimizing illness and disability.
As such, the leading health entity has a wealth of resources for research and training, whether performed inside and outside of the NIH. You can start by clicking their page. The agency also operates a laboratory, where lab workers are regularly trained on lab safety, bloodborne pathogens, biological safety, among other lectures. These instructions are done both online and in person.
Resources For Boosting Laboratory Techniques
Apart from internal training, students and newly-hired lab workers can benefit from external and often free training resources. Online simulations are often used to complement readings about multiple laboratory safety protocols. You can even review what you’ve learned in school by checking out basic topics about chemistry, math, and biology.
Check the sites of the following entities for more online training, and additional reading materials:
- Educational institutions
- Private medical organizations
- Virtual laboratories run by different firms
- Chemistry simulations
- Microscopy simulations
- Phone apps
- Online Scientific Journals
Scientific journals are one of the most comprehensive and credible sources you can refer to for researches and discoveries. The good thing about these sources of information is that they’re typically reviewed and checked by specialists and scholars from multiple fields.
Despite being wide-ranging, scientific publications may be specialized and publish only subjects hinged on a specific field.
What Makes Them Reliable?
These types of resources don’t just publish research papers right away like you would in your social media account. Science journals are always checked for the veracity of their claims to ensure that only high-quality papers get through and are posted on the site. Journals may come in the form of an article, review paper, research article, case study, opinion from an esteemed expert from the field, among other forms.
These papers undergo a meticulous peer-review procedure and proper copyright crediting to avoid problems down the road.
How Is It Done?
Scientific journals aim to solve a ‘problem’ in a form of a question. Before coming up with the results or findings, the author has to choose how to approach the question and explain the methods used to arrive at a specific conclusion – including how the data was interpreted and analyzed.
When the paper is presented, it has to be checked by scientists –either the author’s peers or someone who’s already an expert in the field. These reviewers check the merits of the research before giving the go signal for publication. Often, the reviewer doesn’t know the name of the author, just so they can focus on the quality of the research.
How To Spot Peer-reviewed Journals
Peer-reviewed sources are known by many names; they can be referred to as scholarly or refereed journals. The process is hinged on the principle that two (or more) heads are better than one.
While articles are often written by experts or field practitioners, another expert may have findings that support, complement, or sometimes, put into question the results and conclusion raised by the author(s). Reviewers serve as the gatekeepers; checking the quality and veracity of the scientific document before its publication.
If you want to ensure that you’re only getting validated sources online, do the following:
- Use The Filter Function
Check the site for filtered searches. Some sites allow users to choose the results based on their preferences—from the topics to looking for keywords like ‘advanced search.’ These features, unfortunately, aren’t present in all of the sites, though.
- Use A Database That Can Do The Job
If the site doesn’t allow you to filter your search settings, you can use the online database from where the journal was published. To do this, choose the database, click ‘publications’ or whichever button gives you access to the site’s actual database. Type in the name of the journal and click ‘browse’ or ‘enter.’ Doing this takes you to the full information about the article in question. You can check if your journal is peer-reviewed typically by looking at either the top or the bottom part of the list.
- Check The Paper
For printed journals, it’s quite easier, as papers often have indications in text print or in symbols when the article is peer-reviewed.
You can check the section that carries the name of the publication or magazine. Often, it also carries additional information such as the publisher’s name, the editors, and the place of publication, among other bits of information. The editors are often the main reviewers of the scientific articles. Sometimes, the expert reviewer’s name is cited below the title or at the bottom part of the article.
You can also check whether the article follows the typical format which includes the following:
- Literature review
- References and footnotes
The Bottom Line
The healthcare sector is constantly evolving along with the technologies humans use to detect, manage and prevent diseases. At the same time, there are so many things that we don’t know about how the human body works, more so, the existing and emerging biological threats.
Like any other health worker, a laboratory staff has to continue learning using multiple training and reference sources. Finding out how you can access these resources is essential in keeping your skills and knowledge as a lab worker up to date.