What Does a Medical Technician Do?

A medical technician is an allied health professional who plays an active role in the medical profession but whose work is often overlooked and completed “behind the scenes.” If this type of career sounds intriguing, you may want to learn more about medical technicians, what they do and what is required to become one.

What Does a Medical Technician Do?

A medical technician typically works in a hospital or medical setting. They may work as an emergency medical response worker (EMT), a dental assistant, or a variety of other professions that involve assisting medical professionals. A medical technician may run diagnostic testing on lab equipment to ensure it is working properly. They also analyze and prepare specimens to be viewed by the technologist or physician. Medical technicians may also specialize in specific areas of medical technology. Upon specialized training, the individual may work in the following capacities:

• Medical lab technicians – The medical lab technician assists in performing tests on skin samples, blood work and similar specimens. They may also work as trained phlebotomists. The medical lab technician is familiar with microscopes and other lab equipment.

• Emergency medical technicians – Also known as EMTs, these medical professionals work with ambulance, fire department and other emergency service providers. They provide pre-hospital emergency treatment to patients and transport the patients to a medical facility.

• Cardiovascular technicians – The cardiovascular technician may perform echocardiograms or exams on the heart. They may also be trained in vascular ultrasound where they perform scans of the heart and prepare reports for the physician.

• Surgical technicians – The surgical technician will prepare the operating room and assist in surgeries and other operating room procedures.

• Dialysis technicians – As a dialysis technician, this professional is trained to operate dialysis equipment and create written reports after the procedure.

• Radiology or ultrasound technicians – This medical professional will assist with performing ultrasound and radiological x-rays and scans. They also ensure the equipment is functioning correctly and complete the patient’s medical history.

Medical Technician vs. Medical Technologist

Although the terms medical technician and medical technologists are often used interchangeably, they’re actually two different professions. The medical technician assists medical technologists in their duties. While the medical technologist may perform complex clinical laboratory tests or x-rays, the medical technician assists them or may perform simple tests that are often automated. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical technologists generally complete a baccalaureate program in medical technology, while the medical technician position usually only requires completing a certificate or associate degree program.

What Training is Required?

To become a medical technician, an individual must complete an accredited training program, which may be a certificate or associate degree program (see: Associates Degree in Health Science). In addition to completing science courses, the student will take courses in medical terminology, phlebotomy, hematology and immunology, clinical and urinalysis, direct patient care and pharmacology. The student typically completes a supervised internship to obtain hands-on training. If the medical technician chooses to work in a specialized area, he or she must have additional training.

Although certification may not be required, medical technicians often choose to become certified to improve their employment opportunities. Three organizations that offer certification are American Medical Technologists, American Association of Bioanalysts, and the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

Medical technicians are highly respected medical professionals who typically experience a rewarding career that allows them to help patients feel better and also to assist in diagnosing diseases. A career as a medical technician offers many chances for career advancement.