Sonia Datnow, a sophomore from Birmingham in the Clinical Laboratory Technician program at Wallace State Community College, measures bacteria samples during a recent class. Students in the program will be recognizing Medical Laboratory Professionals Week April 19-25.

Sonia Datnow, a sophomore from Birmingham in the Clinical Laboratory Technician program at Wallace State Community College, measures bacteria samples during a recent class. Students in the program will be recognizing Medical Laboratory Professionals Week April 19-25.

HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Because they perform their tasks mostly behind the scenes, with minimal patient interaction, clinical lab professionals are almost forgotten in the grand scheme of the medical field. But those lab technicians are major players in diagnosing and treating patients in hospitals, doctors’ offices and labs across the United States.

This week, the work of those professionals and future lab technicians will be celebrated as part of Medical Laboratory Professionals Week. The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, the certifying organization for all lab technicians in the United States, promotes the week.

Wallace State Community College’s Clinical Lab Technician program will be participating in the week. In advance, they’ve created posters explaining how much blood the kidney filters in one day and have used 2 liter bottles filled with water as a visual clue. The grey water, collected as students washed their hands, is also an example of how long someone should wash their hands to be sanitary. The water will be recycled and used for watering plants.

During the week, the students will participate in events such as a pipetting contest, where students use a tube and bulb to transfer precise amounts of liquids from one container to another. “It’s a challenge for a lot of the students,” said Misty Wisener, CLT Instructor. “It requires a lot of hand-eye coordination.”

Wisener said medical laboratory technicians are like detectives. “By taking samples of patients’ tissues and bodily fluids, and carefully testing them, they help doctors detect and diagnose illness,” she said. “They use microscopes, chemical analyzers and other high-tech instruments to carry out tests.

“Medical laboratory technicians analyze and interpret the results of the tests,” she added. “This requires an in-depth understanding of the biological and chemical sciences. Whatever they find, they convey to the patient’s doctor.”

Wisener said the work of a medical laboratory technician is fast-paced, hands on, varied and interesting. There is minimal direct contact with patients, which Wisener said is plus to those who want to be a part of the medical field but may not prefer less one-on-one interaction than health field careers such as nursing.

“Some people like this profession because you’re a little detached from the patient,” said Jamie Kilpatrick, CLT Education Coordinator. “But you’re never totally detached. You see a slide with leukemia cells on it and you think of the person and how they will be affected. You’re still connected to the patient, no matter what.”

Job opportunities for students earning their degree at Wallace State include hospital labs, blood donation centers, reference labs and even urgent care facilities. The median annual wage nationwide for medical and clinical laboratory technicians, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $38,370 ($18/hour) as of May 2014.

Kilpatrick said the students are usually able to find work fairly quickly after graduating from the program. Many have job offers prior to graduation.

Applications are now being accepted for the summer schedule through May 6, and will be accepted through August 1 for fall semester. For more information, contact Program Director Julie Welch at 256.352.8347 or visit www.wallacestate.edu.