With so many states offering medical and nursing programs due to the high demand for qualified staff (in 2016, the number of available jobs was estimated to be around 335,700 and has most likely increased since then), it is vital that employees new to the medical field understand the importance of laboratories. While the need for their existence is easy to grasp, the subtleties of laboratories can be more difficult to wrap your head around if this is your first time in the field, especially since they can vary so much depending on that lab’s focus. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re starting a lab tech job soon, or are going to be visiting a laboratory in the near future.
Everything Has A Purpose
Be careful with what you come into contact with — everything that you see performs a specific job. Learn your equipment; vaccine freezers and vaccine refrigerators hold the same general item but operate at vastly different temperatures, and for good reason: vaccines can become ineffective if they get too hot or too cold, putting patients at risk of contracting the very thing they came here to protect against. Most labs have a medical freezer or medical refrigerator specifically for vaccines, while utilizing a separate freezer for pharmaceuticals, such as antibiotics and viral medications. There will also be a machine that resembles a heavy-duty microwave or toaster oven — it’s an autoclave, and is used to sterilize personal tools at high heat levels.
Cleanliness is Vital…Literally
Some of the patients that your clinic sees may have autoimmune disorders, meaning their immune system can’t protect itself as well as most healthy people. In order to guarantee that you don’t inadvertently infect them with something their bodies struggle to fight off, it is absolutely necessary to disinfect everything: your hands, any tools, and all surfaces you come into contact with. Be sure to wear gloves and change them frequently — at least every time you interact with a patient or coworker.
This knowledge, although vague, is the first step to understanding your new position in a medical facility. Remember to be aware of your lab’s freezer for pharmaceuticals and its distinction from the vaccine freezer, and to keep a clean environment. With those out of the way, you’ll be ready for anything your patients throw at you!