MEDICAL LABORATORY TECHNOLOGIST
PETTY OFFICER 2ND CLASS LAURA GAULDEN: I’m Petty Officer 2nd Class Laura Gaulden from The Pas, Manitoba. I’m a Medical Laboratory Technologist posted to Edmonton Garrison.
CORPORAL JAIME DeMERCHANT: And I’m Corporal Jaime DeMerchant from Florenceville, New Brunswick, a Medical Laboratory Technologist at Canadian Forces Base Halifax.
GAULDEN: As part of the Canadian Forces Health Services team, Med Lab Techs can be called on to perform routine and emergency specimen collection and analysis at any time, anywhere in the world that the mission of the Forces takes us.
GAULDEN: About 85 per cent of all medical diagnoses are based on blood work, urine samples, and other lab results.
DeMERCHANT: In a normal day, we do some chemistry, which is a lot of our testing – chemistry and haematology here, because everybody comes in for medicals. So we do their lipids and their liver and their electrolytes. And in haematology, we check your blood to make sure your white blood cells are normal and your red blood cells are normal.
GAULDEN: In our lab, we have basic haematology, chemistry, serology and urinalysis. Some of the big hospitals, you work in one specific area, but here in the Forces, we definitely do a little bit of everything.
DeMERCHANT: Med Lab Techs spend most of our time working in one of the Forces’ ten medical facilities in Canada. But we’re always ready to deploy at any moment with a Field Hospital or Medical Detachment.
GAULDEN: It could be a humanitarian relief mission at the scene of a natural disaster or the round-the-clock tension and drama of battlefield trauma care in a conflict situation.
DeMERCHANT: In a military setting – and especially in field trauma settings – our skills really become critical. And typically, Med Lab Techs are also in charge of the blood bank in those situations.
GAULDEN: Blood bank is really intense and super exciting for us. We do a variety of tests and then we’ll find units that we have stored and make sure those units are compatible before transfusing the patients.
DeMERCHANT: In the Forces, Lab Techs are a vital part of the Health Services team.
DeMERCHANT: And also, being in the military, you get to travel, you go on tours. I got to go to a parasitology course, I got to do the field hospital portion. And I’m sure there’s many more opportunities to come, and it’s kind of exciting.
GAULDEN: And there’s another great option that the Forces offer: part-time service as a Medical Laboratory Technologist with the Health Services Reserves.
MODULE 2 – What’s cool about the job
GAULDEN: I’d say the coolest part of the job is just being in a team environment and kind of helping find issues that are wrong with patients, and try to aid in the diagnosis.
DeMERCHANT: When I went to the Connaught Ranges and I got to work in the field hospital – you come together as a group, you get to know what everybody else does, you get to see what medics do, you get to see what nurses do, and doctors. And it kind of puts in perspective a whole of what you do as a job.
GAULDEN: When I was over there in Afghanistan, we actually brought the results right to the nurses. Or in the cases where they’re still in the trauma base, we take the results right to the doctors. We’re very proactive in our jobs.
MODULE 3 – Trade-Specific Training
DeMERCHANT: To qualify as a Medical Laboratory Technologist in the Canadian Forces, first you’ll need your certification from the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science. If you’re considering becoming a lab tech or are currently enrolled in a lab tech program at an accredited Canadian college, you may be eligible to have your education paid for by the Forces, in exchange for a period of mandatory service once you graduate.
GAULDEN: Members of the Health Services team are soldiers first, just like every one else in the Forces. So the first stage of your military career will be Basic Training at Saint-Jean, Quebec.
DeMERCHANT: After that, you’ll undertake a one-year preceptorship, under the supervision of more senior laboratory technologists. This will include specialized training to prepare you for possible deployment -- a one-week course in malaria and parasitology at McGill University in Montreal, and a week with 1 Canadian Field Hospital in Petawawa, Ontario.
DeMERCHANT: The practical, so far, has been really good. I mean, I got to go away and do some training but being here, I’m going to start on a bench by myself, and that’s when they’ll just kind of look over me. There’s just so many people you can ask questions, and many of them that’s been here for years.
MODULE 4 – Your First Posting
GAULDEN: Your first posting will be at one of the ten Canadian Forces medical labs across the country.
GAULDEN: We work Monday to Friday, 7:30 to 4:00, and civilian side, there’s a lot of shift work. So it’s pretty different from working at a civilian hospital.
GAULDEN: Throughout your career, there will be opportunities for travel and deployment, continuing education, and courses in leadership and management.
MODULE 5 – Testimonials
DeMERCHANT: I’m very much a people person. It’s kinda nice to be able to step outside and be able to see what’s out there besides just in the lab. I know there’s many more people I get to meet in the future, so… I like that.
GAULDEN: I can say that my whole experience in Afghanistan has been my best memories of being a Medical Lab Tech in the Forces. It was really exciting; it was long hours and really intense work. But we were saving lives over there. I found it was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my career.