|Microscope is to lab technicians what stethoscope is to doctors
Programmes: BMLT, DMLT, BVSc, BSc (Plant Science)
Best Institutes: CMC Vellore; College of Allied Health Sciences, Manipal; Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Anjora; GB Pant University of Agriculture Science & Technology, Pantanagar; National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bangalore; Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Delhi
Job Profiles: Medical Lab Technician, Researcher, Consultant, Vet Pathologists
GONE are the days when your doctor touched your wrist to check what’s wrong with you. Instead, today they first ask you to go in for a lab test and then based on the results, they will diagnose and prescribe treatment.
This is where lab technicians come in. “Someone with high fever can either have malaria or dengue; the clarification is achieved only when tests are performed and analysis is done. The final diagnosis comes from the laboratory,” says Dr Vikas Singh, Senior Consultant Pathologist, R G Stone Urology & Laparoscopy Hospital, Delhi.
Job role: More than a blood test
|“While recruiting, person’s subject knowledge, ability to handle critical situations, communication skills and qualifications are looked at”
Dr Praful Khurana
Chief of Lab
Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon
Medical Lab Technicians work on doctor’s instructions. They prepare specimens and operate on machines to analyse samples. They maintain lab health including setting up apparatus, cleaning machines after tests and maintaining the laboratory equipment. They also prepare standard solutions, which are used in the lab analysis. They have to be cautious about measuring chemicals.
Based on results released by lab technicians and technologists together, clinical management of a patient is decided. They must be well-versed in lab safety protocol and have knowledge of all branches of medical science. They must be able to observe patients’ symptoms and cross-check if the tests being advised are matching the condition. How sharp their minds are could make or mar a patient’s chances.
Read more: Lab technology
Lab Technician versus Pathologists
Medical Laboratory Technicians (MLT) carry out tests but are not trained to interpret results. On the other hand, Pathologists or Lab Technologists are trained and authorised to interpret results and give their opinion. To become an MLT, one can pursue two-year and three-year Diploma courses after Class 12. Pathologists do MBBS followed by MD/DNB. The MLTs work under the supervision of a Pathologist. Remuneration also differs; MLTs start their career with around Rs.10,000 per month and pathologists at Rs 30,000 to Rs.40,000.
Training for the job
A student interested in lab technology should undergo Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Technology (BMLT) or Diploma in Medical Laboratory Technology (DMLT) after Class 12. In these programmes, students are trained in clinical lab analysis of body fluids and tissues. There are certificate courses also on offer in general and specialities (view box to know about specialisations). “We are taught almost everything related to a medical laboratory and researches done in it. Apart from core medical subjects, we learn essential things like Laboratory Management, Time Management, Medico Legal, Physiology and First Aid,” says Samantha Hirva, student of Gujarat Institute of Technical Education.
Must-read: Meet Shalini Dixit, Lab Technician at Apollo Hospital
Challenges in the field
- Forensic Pathology
- Clinical Pathology
- Molecular pathology
- Blood banking
It is a high pressure field with exceptionally tight deadlines. An error could possibly turn the diagnosis on its head and prove fatal. And pay packages may not be attractive in the initial years, especially when one works to gain experience. Another point to note is long hours of working while standing is de rigour in the profession and physical stamina is indeed a prime consideration.
Empathy and patience both come in handy when dealing with anxious patients, children, senior citizens and those terrified of needles, for instance. And no job should be considered beneath one’s dignity. “Many hate examining urine and stool. Those with such an attitude should not join this field,” says Dr Praful Khurana, Senior Consultant Pathologist & Chief of Lab Services, Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon. When recruiting for the department, the hospital looks at subject knowledge, confidence in interpretation of the results, ability to handle critical results and communication, besides qualifications and experience in the field. In India, the job prospects in pathology are still growing.
|Students who love animals and want to be involved in animal-related discoveries and diagnosis should choose this field. Veterinary Pathology deals with all types of diseases like nutritional, infectious, parasitic, toxic and cancerous in animals whether domestic, experimental, wild, avian etc. These pathologists also participate in drug development process. A person can choose to work in animal diagnostics, pharmaceutical industry, wildlife and environmental conservation, defense services or opt for teaching and research.
|Plant pathologists or phytopathologists study microbes that cause diseases in plants. Students who wish to work for various agricultural companies and departments choose this field. They join as a Plant Geneticist, Plant Breeder, Aquatic Botanist, Limnologist, Physiologist, Plant Pathologist, Professor, Consultant, and Agricultural Engineer or Inspector at various levels. Biotechnology learning is also included so as to apply principles of modern biology and plant medicine. In order to kick start, science students after Class 12 can take admission in BSc in Plant Science with specialisation in plant pathology.
Prof Dr Vipan Gupta
Head, Dept. of Veterinary Pathology,
Dr G.C. Negi College of Veterinary & Animal Sciences
H.P. Agricultural University
“Great shortfall in supply for Veterinary Pathology.”
Q: What is the scope for employability in Veterinary Pathology?
A: There is a huge potential in the academics and research institutes, disease diagnostic Labs, experimental pathology - sometimes located in medical institutes as well as in the safety assessment studies undertaken by contract research organizations.
Q: How is the demand in India?
A: There is a great shortfall in supply versus demand. There are about 30-35 veterinary Colleges in India offering MVSc in Veterinary Pathology with an average intake capacity of four to five students per college per year. Even these seats remain vacant as majority of BVSc and AH graduates get employed and only a few are left - whether by choice or circumstances to join MVSc in Veterinary Pathology. Overall an estimated 60-80 young Veterinary Pathology specialists are available in a year. As per my information none remain unemployed.
Q: As former Vice-President of IAVP, can you give us a perspective on how the organisation is contributing to the field?
A: Until 2011, the Indian College of Veterinary Pathologists (ICVP), an independent self-certification institution started by the Indian Association of Veterinary Pathologists (IAVP), had some 34 certified pathologists as Diplomats. The next exam is due to be held in September 2012. It is picking up gradually and more and more people are joining the certification system. The certification would help them to find better jobs due to their value assessment by an independent body at national level.