Shadowing a Doctor

August 12, 2016

A laboratory-based medical career could be an excellent career option for you if:

– You are passionate about science and the idea of working behind the scenes appeals to you
– You are interested in a career in medicine but would prefer a specialty that does not involve direct patient care or extended patient interaction
– You are comfortable working with different types of equipment
– You are extremely detail-orientated
– You don’t mind doing repetitive tasks

If all of the above apply to you, the good news is there are several laboratory careers that you can choose from in the healthcare field.

Medical Technologist

Medical technologists work in medical laboratories. They perform a wide range of clinical laboratory tests, from analysing simple blood tests to performing more complex tasks to identify abnormalities in samples. Medical technologists exercise independent judgment and responsibility in their role.

You need to complete a licensure qualifying degree programme to work as a medical technologist.

Medical Laboratory Technician

Medical laboratory technicians help support the work of medical technologists. They work extensively with laboratory equipment, preparing and analysing slides and specimens of human blood, tissue or other cells. They perform almost the same tasks as a medical technologist but at a much less complex level.

In most settings a medical lab technician works under the guidance or supervision of a medical technologist.


Cytotechnologists prepare and analyse slides of Pap smears and other human cell samples under a microscope looking for abnormalities such as cancerous cells, pre-cancerous cells or other types of infectious disease cells. The findings are reported to a pathologist who then submits the final diagnosis report to the primary care physician.

Cytotechnologists are usually employed by hospital labs and commercial labs.


A pathologist is a qualified physician who has undergone additional training in pathology. They lead the examination of the tissue and organ samples and coordinate with the treating physician to ultimately determine a diagnosis of disease or cause of death. Becoming a pathologist entails one of the lengthiest education and training tracks of all medical specialties.

There are several different types of pathologists:

– Clinical pathologists analyse urine, blood and other non-tissue specimens
– Anatomic pathologists assess tissue specimens such as those obtained from the lungs, brain or heart
– Forensic pathologists analyse and assess evidence to establish cause of death, especially in suspected wrongful deaths


Histotechnologists specialise in preparing tissue specimens, which will then be examined by a pathologist. Their tasks involve slicing the tissue into thin transparent sections, staining the sections and mounting the stained sections on to glass slides.

Histotechnicians undergo advanced training in detecting abnormal tissue samples.

Pathologist Assistant

Pathologist assistants help pathologists with preparing and examining specimens. They usually take care of the specimen dissection, gross description and photography.

There is a growing demand for qualified lab-based professionals so if you are interested in any of the above opportunities, you can look forward to steady employment with above average earning potential for years to come.

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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.