EDUCATION PLUS

Helping doctors decide the treatment

Precision: Lab technicians must have an eye for accuracy, good observation power and, should be sincere.

Precision: Lab technicians must have an eye for accuracy, good observation power and, should be sincere.   | Photo Credit: Photo: AFP

R. SUJATHA

As medical care increasingly gets evidence-based, lab technicians play a key role in diagnosis.

Nowadays it is evidence-based medical care. Doctors refer patients for diagnostic tests and this will become more common in future.

Those who work closely with laboratory technicians say they are “the pillars of a hospital.” A hospital cannot afford to ignore them as they provide the most important input for the doctor about the patient. In many smaller laboratories they stand in for the microbiologist and help the doctors to decide the treatment methods.

In an age when increased attention is being accorded to evidence-based medical care, doctors say it is important for hospitals to ensure that their lab technicians are well paid and well-cared for.

Courses available

Students can take up the two-year lab technician course after passing Class XII. The King Institute of Preventive Medicine in Chennai provides the required training for students enrolled in government colleges. “We prefer those trained at government institutions,” says Radha Madhavan, head, Microbiology, SRM Medical College. “The next preference is for students with a year’s training after Plus-Two. For, the basic training for lab technicians is the same, irrespective of the number of years of study.”

Some students take up B.Sc. degree in biochemistry, microbiology, clinical microbiology or clinical biochemistry. Hospitals prefer candidates with M.Sc. degree in Medical Science as they would be more familiar with medical terms.

Students with M.Sc. Medical Sciences from a college affiliated to a hospital have a better chance to work as faculty, whereas those with M.Sc. Microbiology from an arts and science college will be taken in as a technician only, says Dr. Radha.

Vital role

There is emphasis on medical terms because lab technicians are generally involved in three types of investigations: microbiological, pathological and biochemical. “Their service is very important as they are expected to report competently. Unless lab technicians are aware of the problem they would not be able to report abnormal findings to the medical officer concerned. A lab technician should have good observation power and should be sincere,” she says.

B. Suresh, principal of J.S.S. College of Pharmacy, Udhagamandalam, concurs: “Nowadays it is evidence-based medical care. Doctors refer patients for diagnostic tests and this will become more common in future.”

Admission

Students can expect to earn around Rs. 6,000 after completing the course and with good training in a quality institution they could even set up their own laboratory, says A. Sundaram, vice-principal of Government Stanley Medical College. “We have been conducting the lab technician course for the last four years. The government-run medical college hospitals in the State offer 100 seats but only 70 - 80 of them get filled.” The government has reduced the eligibility criteria from 60 marks to 50 to encourage more students to opt for the course.

G. Panneerselvam set up a laboratory in Mannargudi town with an investment of Rs. 5 lakh 20 years ago. He made his way up in business by maintaining a good rapport with doctors. He set up a laboratory because posting opportunities were low. But business also comes with its own set of problems, he notes. “It is a competitive business. So it is difficult to make profits.”

“A lab technician should have good observation power and should be sincere.”



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