Why I Chose the Medical Laboratory Profession

I am always thankful to be working as a medical laboratory technologist, a career I am very passionate about. I remember my journey towards discovering my ideal career, and let me tell you, it was not an easy one. I was in a similar situation as many other students in high school, not fully aware of the full range of career options available to us. And since this crucial decision is made during the second half of high school, many students feel stuck, undecided, and anxious on their career choices prior to entering further studies. Students often choose an educational path during high school without making an informed decision of all the career options available. As a result, there are many new graduates who have trouble finding a job within their field and pursue additional programs in order to acquire more qualifications. I believe a thorough search of the vast number of career options available will help students make an informed decision.

maria in lab

Continue reading

Clinical Perspectives: Multiple Myeloma and Serum Protein Electrophoresis

As a physician, a patient comes to you presenting with bone pain, weight loss, nausea and vomiting. Ordered tests come back abnormal: the complete blood count (CBC) shows low cell counts with abnormal cells, calcium, urea and creatinine levels are elevated, and the X-ray demonstrates bone lesions. All these signs point towards multiple myeloma, a type of cancer in which plasma cells form multiple masses in the bone marrow. Therefore, a serum protein electrophoresis is ordered to confirm your suspicion. Continue reading

Lab Chronicles: My Experience in the Hematology Laboratory

The clinical hematology laboratory contains two different types of testing: hematological and coagulation testing. On the hematological side of testing, the main test performed is the complete blood count (CBC), which directly measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and hemoglobin, as well as indirectly measuring other values by calculations (such as the mean corpuscular hemoglobin). These tests are performed using a well-mixed whole blood sample that has been collected in a tube containing ethylene diamine triacetic acid, also known as EDTA. Before hematological results are sent out to the healthcare team, they are reviewed by the medical laboratory technologist (MLT). Any abnormal results that are seen by the MLT (either increased or decreased beyond reference ranges) are made into slides and further microscopic analyses are performed. Some results may even be “critical” in the sense that they are so abnormal that the patient may be at risk of harm if the result is not reported immediately. While reviewing parameters, certain “checks” are also performed as an internal quality control system for the sample. One of these kinds of systems include delta checks, which are a comparison of a patient’s previous results to those most current. While changes in values can occur due to the physiological state of the patient, these internal checks are also great for identifying if a sample was taken from the wrong patient. In addition, H&H checks are performed between the patient’s hemoglobin and hematocrit. The hematocrit should match the hemoglobin within certain values, and if not, an issue with the specimen quality is present, and this should be addressed before results are reported for that patient.

Continue reading

Lab Chronicles: Three Important Lessons I Learned Performing Phlebotomy

One of the main reasons why I chose the medical laboratory profession was for the behind-the-scenes work in the medical field. Nevertheless, I am thankful for those individuals on the front line of the medical profession, directly taking care of patients and their illnesses. Even though this may have the initial reason that drew me to the medical laboratory profession, I have found, throughout my years in university, that I have many other qualities belonging to that of a medical laboratory technologist: I am analytical, process-driven, and a critical thinker. Nonetheless, there has been one aspect of my program that had me a bit worried… Continue reading

Lab Chronicles: My Experience in the Histology Lab – Week 3

Throughout this week in the Histology lab, I was operating the automated hematoxylin and eosin stainer, while also submitting stained slides to the pathologists to be reviewed.

Hematoxylin and eosin is a stain used in routine Histology slides. The hematoxylin stains nuclei in the tissue blue, whereas eosin stains the cytoplasm and other structures varying shades of pink. Hematoxylin is a natural dye originating from the logwood tree, Haematoxylum campechianum. However, it is not hematoxylin that is truly staining the nuclei, but rather its oxidized state of hematein. Oxidation of hematoxylin to hematein can occur using two different methods. One is a natural oxidation process that uses air or light. This process takes a significant amount of time to oxidize the dye, however, it produces a very stable stain. The other method uses chemical oxidation that requires either sodium iodate or potassium iodate. While this process occurs much quicker than the natural method, these stains may deteriorate and require filtering before use. However, this oxidized state of hematoxylin is still not sufficient to stain tissues. Hematoxylin must also be combined with a ‘mordant’, which gives the dye affinity to the tissue. Typical mordants that are added to hematoxylin are aluminum, iron, lead, tungsten, and molybdenum. Continue reading

The Lab Chronicles: My Experience in the Histology Lab – Week 2

For my second week in the Histology lab, I will describe the processes of tissue processing, embedding and microtomy. During this week, I processed, embedded and cut over 100 tissues.

In my previous blog, the gross description of tissues was explained. After grossing, tissues are put into tissue processor machines. Tissue processing consists of different chemicals entering the tissue for preservation. Tissues are then embedded into paraffin wax using the appropriate orientation. After tissues are embedded in wax and cooled, they can be cut using a microtome to create thin ribbons of tissues. These thin ribbons are then put onto slides. Continue reading

The Lab Chronicles: My Experience in the Histology Lab – Week 1

For this blog, I will be describing my exciting first week in the Histology lab! For those of you who are not familiar with this department of the lab, it is where tissues are sent in order to identify diseases. The pathologist is responsible for reading tissue slides microscopically to diagnose disease. These slides are made by technologists, and there are several steps involved in the production of the final slide.

First, when tissue is received in the lab, it is accessioned and given a specimen number. It is then sent to be ‘grossed’, which means it is given a macroscopic description. Next, it is cut into small pieces that are put into cassettes. These cassettes contain either a single piece or several pieces of tissue that will be made into a slide. The cassettes are then processed in machines that make them easier to cut while maintaining the microscopic characteristics of tissues. Once they are processed, tissues are then embedded into paraffin blocks, cut into thin slices using a microtome, stained and sent to the pathologist to read.

Continue reading

The Lab Chronicles: My Experience in the Clinical Microbiology Lab – Weeks 5, 6 and 7

In this blog, I have combined my final three weeks in Microbiology. These last weeks mostly consisted of myself working on practice exams, as well as my final practical and theory exam. Additionally, I began working on my Clinical Project and started the testing process. However, I will highlight a few items performed over these last few weeks that have not been previously mentioned. Continue reading