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Army Air Force Navy

Medical Laboratory Technologist

Non-Commissioned Member | Full Time


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Overview

Medical Laboratory Technologists provide medical laboratory data used in the treatment and diagnosis of surgical and medical conditions in detachments and clinics, as well as in combat and operational units.

They must perform their duties according to established protocols, safety guidelines and existing legislation at all times. Their duties include:

  • Collecting and preparing biological specimens for analysis;
  • Performing routine and specialized analyses;
  • Validating test results;
  • Perform analytical techniques on specimens that originate from a variety of sources; and
  • Practice and promote the principles of quality and resource management

Work environment

Medical Laboratory Technologists work in a variety of medical facilities and temporary labs while deployed in peacekeeping, combat and humanitarian missions around the world. They may work in shifts. They are posted to bases in Canada, are deployed on missions around the world or on ships at sea.

Career Overview

Transcript

TITLE:

MEDICAL LABORATORY TECHNOLOGIST

SERGEANT BRADLEY McKIBBIN: I’m Sergeant Bradley McKibbin from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­I’m a Medical Laboratory Technologist currently posted with 1 Canadian Field Hospital in Petawawa, Ontario.

SERGEANT BRADLEY McKIBBIN: If I had to give a simple definition for Medical Laboratory Technologist, it would be somebody who takes various samples from a patient and runs them through a wide variety of different analytical systems to determine an accurate picture of what’s going on within their body.

Medical Laboratory Technologists – or Med Lab Techs for short – spend most of their time working in a Forces medical facility in Canada. But they are always ready to deploy with a Field Hospital or Medical Detachment as the need arises.

It could be a humanitarian relief mission at the scene of a natural disaster or the round-the-clock tension and drama of trauma care in a conflict situation.

SERGEANT BRADLEY McKIBBIN: Often there is somebody in the next room in a dire situation and you are working hard to make sure that they make it home to their family.

About 85% of all medical diagnoses are based on lab results. Most Canadian Armed Forces labs do basic phlebotomy, haematology, chemistry, coagulation, serology and urinalysis. 

SERGEANT BRADLEY McKIBBIN: The Medical Laboratory Technologist’s job in the civilian environment – you’re most likely going to find yourself in one department and only do that one aspect of the job for an entire career. In the military, you’ve got a few techs that are cross-trained on everything and are responsible for providing a wide variety of different results through different tests to aid doctors with a minimal team to give the maximum amount of results.

Med Lab Techs are a vital part of the Canadian Armed Forces Health Services team, both in the Regular Force as well as in the Reserves.  

They’ve been a critical part of the Forces’ response to the coronavirus pandemic, using high-tech instruments to test Forces members for COVID-19.

They also provide Point of Care training on specialized equipment like the i-STAT Analyzer to Physician Assistants and Medical Technicians who are posted on ship.

SERGEANT BRADLEY McKIBBIN: One of the great advantages of being a Lab Tech with the military is that you are much more closely integrated with the other members of the healthcare team. It gives a really interesting insight into how every level of health care can be delivered because we get to work very closely and interact directly with every member of the team.

SERGEANT BRADLEY McKIBBIN: There are few occasions that give somebody more pride than having someone who may or may not survive enter in the facility, be treated by a team that you’re a part of, and knowing that the actions you’ve taken over the course of what can sometimes be minutes, or sometimes be hours, make a difference in whether or not they survive and the quality of life they have when they continue and make it home.

Once they complete their military and trade training, Med Lab Techs are posted to one of the 10 Canadian Armed Forces medical laboratories across the country, where they’ll go through a one-year preceptorship program under the supervision of senior laboratory personnel. The training package also includes a one-week parasitology course and field training course aimed specifically for operational deployments.

Here in Canada, Med Lab Techs work normal working hours from Monday to Friday.  And unlike in a civilian setting, there’s typically no shift work.

Throughout their careers, Med Lab Techs will have opportunities for travel and deployment on peacekeeping, combat or humanitarian aid missions, as well as continuing professional education, and courses in leadership and management.

SERGEANT BRADLEY McKIBBIN: If you’re willing to put in the time and the effort, they will guide you on the path to success so that you can actualize your dreams and really, at the end of the day, feel like you’ve accomplished something.

SERGEANT BRADLEY McKIBBIN: If I had to choose one thing about this job that engages me the most, it is the people I work with. I had never anticipated the desire to join the Forces and I never expected to want to stay. But the calibre of the people I have met while working here, from all walks of life, has been exceptional. And I can almost always look forward to meeting somebody new walking through the door in the lab with a unique story that I never would have got to know otherwise.

Related Civilian Occupations

  • Medical Laboratory Technologist and Pathologist Assistant
  • Biochemistry Technologist
  • Histology Technologist
  • Microbiology Technologist

Training

The first stage of training is the Basic Military Qualification course, or Basic Training, held at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. This training provides the basic core skills and knowledge common to all trades. A goal of this course is to ensure that all recruits maintain the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) physical fitness standard; as a result, the training is physically demanding.

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Medical Laboratory Technologists are posted to a medical unit in Canada to complete a one-year preceptor program under the supervision of senior staff. This training provides the core knowledge required to practice as a Medical Laboratory Technologist in a military setting.

Medical Laboratory Technologists may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Leadership
  • Management

As they progress in their career, Medical Laboratory Technologists who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training.

Entry plans

To apply for this position you must be unconditionally accepted or currently enrolled as a full-time student in an academic program at a post-secondary institution selected by the CAF under the Non-Commissioned Member Subsidized Training and Education Plan (NCM-STEP) program.

If you already have a college diploma in Medical Laboratory Technology, certification from the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) and have an unrestricted license or registration to practice (active status) and letter of good standing from a provincial/territorial regulatory authority you may enroll under the Direct Entry Plan. If you graduated more than 12 months ago, six months full or part-time clinical medical laboratory experience gained in the last two years is required. If you graduated within the last 12 months no experience is required.

Non-Commissioned Member Subsidized Training Education Plan (NCM-STEP)

Since this position requires specialty training, the Canadian Armed Forces will pay successful recruits to attend the diploma program at an approved Canadian college. NCM STEP students attend basic training and on-the-job training during the summer months. They receive a full-time salary including medical and dental care, as well as vacation time with full-pay in exchange for working with the Forces for a period of time. If you choose to apply to this program, you must apply both to the Forces and the appropriate college.

For further information, please contact a Canadian Forces Health Services Recruiter: HSRecruiting-RecrutementSS@forces.gc.ca

Learn more about our Paid Education programs here.