Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ON THE JOB Medical Lab Technologist in Malaysia

HUNDREDS of specimens pass through Government’s hospital lab for analysis every day. And behind each one is a person.

He never forgets that.

"They are the centre of our work," says Mr. Syahrul, a specific duty lab technologist and head of the chemistry department at Institute of Medical Research, IMR.

"If something doesn’t look right, you have to stop and deal with it, no matter how many samples you have to do. There is a patient on the other end."

Mr. Syahrul graduated from the former medical laboratory technologists program at the Institute of Medical Research in 1982 and has worked in government hospitals and in IMR.

The idea of working in the medical field was always in the back of his mind because he’d spent a lot of time in hospital as a child because of chronic asthma.

He hardly imagined he’d find the work so rewarding.

"It’s a wonderful field," said Syahrul, who readily urges people to follow in his footsteps as long as they have a head for science, can multi-task and have plenty of energy for the long busy days and shift work.

"There is going to be a big need for people in our field because of the number of people retiring. It really is an awesome job."


Medical laboratory technologists play a pivotal role in health care. It has been estimated that 85 per cent of medical diagnostic decisions are made on the basis of laboratory results.

MLTs collect and handle laboratory specimens, conduct complex laboratory tests and experiments/studies, analyze specimens and interpret quality-control data to verify the accuracy and precision of test results for use by health care practitioners in diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease.

General MLTs may specialize in one, or perform duties in all, of the following disciplines: microbiology, chemistry, histology, transfusion science and hematology. General MLTs analyze blood, urine and other body fluids (chemistry); prepare tissue sections for detection of disease (histology); differentiate blood cells and detect blood disorders/diseases (hematology); perform blood group, type and compatibility tests for transfusion purposes (transfusion science); and identify and perform susceptibilities on a broad range of disease-causing (pathogenic) and opportunistic micro-organisms such as staphylococcus aureus and mycobacterium tuberculosis (microbiology).

MLTs with subject certification perform duties in diagnostic cytology or clinical genetics. Cytotechnologist MLTs observe and detect changes in cells associated with cancer. Clinical genetic MLTs perform tests on chromosomes, DNA and RNA to allow detection of genetic diseases (specimens include body fluids and tissues).

All MLTs may be involved in research and development plus molecular testing. MLTs train and supervise other laboratory personnel such as MLT students, medical residents, registered nurses and other health care professionals.

Depending on the size and type of institution, people in these occupations may be required to work evenings, weekends or holidays.


The work demands accuracy and close attention to detail. You must have good manual dexterity and be comfortable working with instruments and technology, including information technology. Good communication skills and the ability to work with various health professionals are important. Although teamwork is essential, an MLT must be self-sufficient and able to work independently, be capable of critical thinking and exercise good judgment. You must be flexible, open to change and willing to keep pace with rapid developments in the field.


Medical laboratory technologists need a two- to three-year program in medical laboratory technology and a period of supervised, relevant work experience, or a medical laboratory science degree.


The technology in this field is constantly changing and laboratory technologists must constantly upgrade their skills. A large proportion of diagnostic and physicians’ decisions are made based on tests performed by these occupations.

As demand for health-care services increases due to nation’s aging population, there will be an increased need for workers in these occupations. It is anticipated that there could be significant supply shortages of medical laboratory technicians and pathologists’ assistants in the next five years.


Clinical genetic medical laboratory technologist, cytotechnologist, histology technologist, medical laboratory technologist.

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