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NOC Code: NOC Code: 3211 Occupation: Medical Laboratory Technologists and Pathologists' Assistants
Occupation Description: Occupation Description:
Medical laboratory technologists conduct medical laboratory tests, experiments and analyses to assist in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. They are employed in medical laboratories in hospitals, private clinics, research institutions and universities. Pathologists' assistants assist at autopsies and examinations of surgical specimens or perform autopsies under a pathologist's supervision. They are usually employed in hospitals. Medical laboratory technologists who are also supervisors are included in this unit group. Medical laboratory technologists conduct medical laboratory tests, experiments and analyses to assist in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. They are employed in medical laboratories in hospitals, private clinics, research institutions and universities. Pathologists' assistants assist at autopsies and examinations of surgical specimens or perform autopsies under a pathologist's supervision. They are usually employed in hospitals. Medical laboratory technologists who are also supervisors are included in this unit group.

  • Click on any of the Essential Skills to view sample workplace tasks for this occupation.
  • Skill levels are assigned to tasks: Level 1 tasks are the least complex and level 4 or 5 tasks (depending upon the specific skill) are the most complex. Skill levels are associated with workplace tasks and not the workers performing these tasks.
  • Scroll down the page to get information on career planning, education and training, and employment and volunteer opportunities.

Table will display the Skill Level for the Noc specified
Essential Skills Essential Skills Levels
Reading Text Reading Text 1 2 3 4
Writing Writing 1 2 3 4
Document Use Document Use 1 2 3 4
Computer Use Computer Use 1 2 3 4
Oral Communication Oral Communication 1 2 3 4
Money Math Money Math 1 2
Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting 1 2 3
Measurement and Calculation Measurement and Calculation 1 2 3
Data Analysis Data Analysis 1 2 3
Numerical Estimation Numerical Estimation 1
Job Task Planning and Organizing Job Task Planning and Organizing 1 2
Decision Making Decision Making 1 2 3
Problem Solving Problem Solving 1 2 3
Finding Information Finding Information 1 2 3
Critical Thinking Critical Thinking 1 2 3


  • The skill levels represented in the above chart illustrate the full range of sample tasks performed by experienced workers and not individuals preparing for or entering this occupation for the first time.
  • Note that some occupational profiles do not include all Numeracy and Thinking Essential Skills.

If you would like to print a copy of the chart and sample tasks, click on the "Print Occupational Profile" button at the top of the page.


Reading Text
  • Read handling and storage instructions on the labels of laboratory materials such as reagents, dyes, preservatives and cleaners. (1)
  • Read email on a variety of topics from supervisors, co-workers and colleagues. For example, read email from supervisors requesting assistance, describing laboratory equipment status and notifying of changes to work or maintenance schedules. (2)
  • Read user manuals to ensure familiarity with the functioning of laboratory equipment. For example, refer to user manuals to review steps needed to run quality control procedures or to troubleshoot equipment. (3)
  • Refer to standards of practice, laboratory policies and procedures, health and safety guidelines and other regulations and standards to ensure processes, procedures and practices are compliant with industry standards and institutional requirements. For example, review the regulations governing the preservation of biological specimens, or procedures for disposing of files and other records that may contain confidential information about patients. (3)
  • Read trade publications such as Industrial News Room and BloodLine to stay abreast of industry trends and learn about new laboratory technologies, equipment and supplies. (3)
  • Read manuals and internal reports to evaluate their accuracy and quality. For example, read laboratory operating manuals to assess whether they reflect changes to standard operating procedures. (4)
  • Read patients' hospital care records or medical files for information which validates or explains test results. Pay close attention to factors such as age, gender, results of previous laboratory investigations, history of diagnosed and undiagnosed diseases and pharmacological treatments. Summarize this information for specialist physicians as necessary. (4)
  • Read articles in scientific journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Infectious Diseases, Frontiers in HematOncology and Cytopathology to further your medical knowledge, gain continuing education credits and maintain professional certification. For example, read about topics such as discoveries made from analysing plaques in the brain tissue of Alzheimer patients, or the relationship between blood pH levels and the human body's biochemical functions. These articles contain specialized terminology intended for an expert audience. (4)
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Writing
  • Write short descriptions of laboratory equipment malfunctions into maintenance logs. (1)
  • Write email to supervisors, co-workers and colleagues on a variety of topics. For example, respond to service requests and administrative queries. (2)
  • Write letters. For example, medical laboratory supervisors may write letters of reprimand to laboratory workers who consistently deviate from acceptable laboratory protocols. These letters use an established format and describe the facts surrounding the breach. (2)
  • Prepare comprehensive, unambiguous procedures and protocols for the collection, identification, transportation, preparation, storage and analysis of specimens. For example, a medical laboratory technologist may write procedures for the staining of the organism Helicobacter pylori in paraffin sections. In the procedures, the technologist establishes the protocol that all laboratory workers must follow when carrying out this task. (3)
  • Write reports to present lab results and describe the analysis of specimens. In these reports, technologists may present and discuss test results, describe the architecture, morphology and condition of specimens that have been collected and give overviews of testing procedures. By completing these reports accurately and quickly, medical laboratory technologists contribute to the early diagnosis and treatment of diseases in living patients. (3)
  • Draft reports recommending the purchase of new laboratory equipment and submit them to management for approval. In these documents, generally include analyses of various equipment deficiencies, descriptions of troubleshooting and maintenance work done over time and justifications for replacement. For example, an assistant chief technologist may prepare a document recommending the purchase of a new immunohistochemistry stainer. (4)
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Document Use
  • Read lists of names and addresses of laboratory product suppliers. (1)
  • Refer to laboratory requisition forms completed by physicians to identify tests needed and reasons for testing. (1)
  • Refer to daily, weekly and monthly work schedules to determine work assignments and responsibilities. (2)
  • Read tables generated by analyser equipment to obtain information about quality control procedures, reagent levels required, analyses being performed and acceptable ranges for test results. (2)
  • Review specimen identification labels to ensure they contain accurate and complete data. Study labels to check that information such as the patients' names and identification numbers and the names of the referring physicians have been entered correctly. (2)
  • Interpret a variety of icons to identify hazardous substances on containers or navigate websites for information about pathologies, medical diagnoses, testing technologies and laboratory supplies. (2)
  • Enter data into equipment maintenance logs when there are malfunctions with laboratory equipment. Enter details such as the pieces of equipment involved, their locations and when service technicians were contacted. (2)
  • Complete test result forms. Use these forms to track collection, preparation and analysis of specimens. Fill in forms to record the quality of specimen preparation, the normality of testing procedures and the final test results. (3)
  • Refer to graphs contained in medical journals, textbooks, trade publications and websites to learn about pathologies. In some cases, locate and retrieve data from a number of graphs and accompanying texts to fully distinguish between health and disease. (3)
  • Read schematic drawings to troubleshoot and maintain laboratory equipment. For example, medical laboratory technologists may review schematic drawings to replace probes in chemistry and haematology analyzers. (3)
  • Interpret pictures and x-ray images included in patients' care records to aid in the validation of test results. For example, genetics technologists may interpret an autoradiograph to analyze nucleic acids. (4)
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Computer Use
  • Use word processing software such as Word and WordPerfect to write, edit and format text. (2)
  • Use databases. For example, use hospital and laboratory databases to enter and view information on patients' test results. Use databases to access procedure descriptions and forms as well as equipment troubleshooting steps and service requests. (2)
  • Exchange email and attached documents with specialist physicians, technologists who are working on other shifts and colleagues from other departments or laboratories. (2)
  • Use the Internet. For example, perform keyboard searches to get information about pathologies, medical diagnoses, testing technologies and laboratory supplies. (2)
  • Use spreadsheets. For example, enter data into existing Excel spreadsheet templates to prepare budgets, manage laboratory supply inventories, track work schedules and workload data or compare test results to quality control data. (2)
  • Use computer-assisted design, manufacturing and machining. For example, use supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems incorporated to laboratory equipment to generate quality control data. (3)
  • Use graphics software. For example, create slide shows for trainees using presentation software such as PowerPoint. In order to develop effective presentations, import digital photographs processed with image editing programs such as PhotoShop. (3)
  • Use other software. For example, use genetic imaging and analysis software such as CytoVision to classify chromosomes. (4)
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Oral Communication
  • Talk to suppliers about technical specifications, price quotes, service options and delivery times for new laboratory materials, equipment and supplies. (1)
  • Interact with outgoing shift workers to discuss events such as equipment breakdowns that have happened during shifts. Discuss outstanding laboratory tests which have to be performed and indicate which tests have highest priorities. (2)
  • Talk to referring physicians to advise them of critical test results and to explain delays in their delivery. Reassure impatient doctors that test results will be available shortly. (2)
  • Interact with other technologists and medical laboratory workers to coordinate the delivery of laboratory services and the operation and maintenance of laboratory equipment. Assign new tasks, review completed tasks, discuss the status of ongoing work and resolve conflicts. (2)
  • Meet with supervisors or directors to obtain guidance and approvals, to review quality control data and to discuss work performance, unique test results, laboratory schedules and other administrative issues. Meet with supervisors or directors to present analyses and recommendations for new equipment. (3)
  • Counsel patients and their representatives about specimen collection procedures. Technologists must be able to clearly explain the purposes of specimen collection, the steps involved in preparation procedures and the importance of following procedures as directed. They must also identify food, beverages and drugs which should be avoided in the hours preceding testing. (3)
  • Participate in and may facilitate staff meetings with other laboratory workers and health professionals to discuss patient cases, current issues with laboratory services, policy and procedure changes and upcoming equipment repairs. At these meetings, you may be asked to present laboratory procedures you have developed. (3)
  • Train health care workers assigned to the collection, identification, transportation, preparation, storage and analysis of specimens. Teach the protocols these workers have to follow when carrying out their tasks. Present case scenarios, explain applicable procedures, demonstrate tasks and facilitate discussions. Question trainees to ascertain the understanding of procedures. Establish trust and encourage trainees' active involvement in the learning process. (4)
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Money Math
  • Calculate line amounts, taxes and totals on purchase orders for antibody and specimen diluents, dilution buffers, reagents, test tubes, electronic pipettes, analysers, laboratory analysis software and other laboratory supplies. (2)
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Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting
  • Prepare and monitor laboratory budgets. Medical laboratory supervisors and assistant chief technologists ensure that expenditures incurred for equipment, materials and labour remain within budgeted amounts. They frequently adjust line items because of equipment breakdown, loss of staff or other unexpected events. (3)
  • Determine shift staffing requirements and develop work and vacation schedules for co-workers. Medical laboratory supervisors and assistant chief technologists preparing laboratory schedules take into account several complicating factors including collective agreements governing overtime, the requirement to assign hours based on seniority and the need to rotate assignments for analysers and other laboratory equipment. They frequently adjust schedules to accommodate sick leaves or other unexpected occurrences. (3)
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Measurement and Calculation
  • Measure various body and organ dimensions to complete autopsies or surgical dissections. For example, during autopsies pathology assistants may weigh the heart and lungs; measure the diameter of nodules; and measure the length, width and thickness of other organs. (2)
  • Calculate quantities of materials for mixtures and solutions. Perform these calculations using ratios, rates and percentages. For example, calculate the volumes of crystallized buffer needed for specified volumes of stain. (2)
  • Determine quantities of laboratory supplies. For example, a technologist may determine the quantities of slides, coversheets, stains and paraffin needed to run a series of tests. (2)
  • Use specialized instruments and methods to measure the values of various parameters during laboratory analyses. For example, take precise measurements of antibodies found in blood specimens using analyser equipment. Take precise measurements of pH levels prevailing in solutions using pH meters. Measure a patient's creatinine clearance by inserting creatinine level, weight, sex and age into a mathematical equation and solving the equation. (3)
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Data Analysis
  • Compare test results to reference ranges and critical ranges to verify their validity and aid in diagnoses. (2)
  • Analyse quality control and performance data to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of laboratory equipment and services. For example, assess means and standard deviations against quality requirements per time period to compare with client specifications. (3)
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Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate certain quantities by eyeballing. For example, microbiology technologists may make qualitative visual estimates of quantities of pathogen bacteria on plates to determine the presence of infections. Pathology assistants may make qualitative visual estimates of quantities of blood in pleural cavities during autopsies. (1)
  • Estimate the length of time needed to analyse specimens using past experience as a guide. (1)
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Job Task Planning and Organizing
  • Medical laboratory technologists and pathologists' assistants have to complete a set of routine tasks each day to ensure the timely delivery of laboratory test results. They have some scope to order tasks, but this discretion is usually limited by written 'prioritization protocols.' Urgent requests from doctors for critically ill patients, equipment failures, shortages of service technicians, delays in repairs and other unexpected events frequently force them to reorganize job tasks. Medical laboratory technologists and pathologists' assistants play a central role in organizing, planning and scheduling day-to-day laboratory operations and may contribute to long-term and strategic planning for their organizations. (2)
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Decision Making
  • Decide whether specimens should be kept in storage or sent to other laboratories for processing when there are equipment failures. To help with the decision, verify how soon doctors need results and when equipment is expected to be repaired. (2)
  • Decide which tasks to assign to junior technologists and other medical laboratory workers on their teams. Consider junior staff's individual strengths and weaknesses, work experiences and abilities to meet deadlines. If the wrong people are chosen, the delivery of laboratory services may be delayed. (2)
  • Decide which laboratory supplies to order. Use your professional knowledge and take into consideration such factors as budgets and the types of anticipated demand for laboratory analyses. (2)
  • Choose the methods, times, locations and durations to train health care workers assigned to the collection, identification, transportation, preparation, storage and analysis of specimens. Study the cost and feasibility of several different options for each. Also consider the need to replace laboratory workers who are taking training. Past training decisions provide only limited guidance since laboratory procedures and equipment keep changing. (3)
  • Decide which procedures to follow when carrying out tasks. For example, during the course of autopsies, pathology assistants must decide which specimens to remove for further microscopic examination based on their observations and knowledge of the patient's clinical chart. There are standard procedures, but they often leave significant scope for interpretation. Lack of appropriate specimens may preclude accurate diagnoses of cause of death and reflect badly on the assistants' reputation for competence. (3)
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Problem Solving
  • Encounter situations where information on specimen collection containers does not match that on requisition forms. Call referral sources to clarify, requesting new samples if necessary. (1)
  • Realize that specimens received are unsuitable for analysis. For example, blood specimens may have been subject to clotting or hemolysis. Contact referral sources, report the nature of inadequacies and request that new specimens be collected where possible. (2)
  • Face equipment failures which may adversely affect the timely delivery of laboratory analyses. Refer to user manuals to troubleshoot equipment and describe the failures and repairs into maintenance logs. If equipment cannot be repaired, call service technicians for assistance. (2)
  • Observe practices which constitute hazards to the safety of laboratory workers. Identify safe alternatives to these practices and discuss them with supervisors or directors. For example, when staff are required to handle hazardous materials, suggest the purchase of masks, gloves, aprons, gowns, face shields or other personal protective equipment as appropriate. (3)
  • Discover that quality control data suggest a high degree of analytical deficiencies. Identify the source of the errors and develop appropriate strategies for improvement. For example, medical laboratory supervisors may link errors to particular technologists. They work with these employees to assess the reasons for the deficiencies and to guide them in the proper direction. They monitor work closely to verify if the workers improve on their analyses and they evaluate the need for retraining. (3)
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Finding Information
  • Find historical information on patients' test results by searching databases and, in some cases, medical records. (2)
  • Search a wide range of sources including medical dictionaries, textbooks, trade press, medical journals and websites to find information about pathologies with which you are not familiar. Consult with co-workers, peers and other health professionals. (3)
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Critical Thinking
  • Assess the suitability of specimens collected for analysis. Verify that adequate amounts or volumes have been collected and that specimens' integrity has been maintained through adequate preparation, transportation and storage. (2)
  • Evaluate the completeness of patient data received prior to the collection of specimens. Review laboratory requisition forms to ensure they contain all information which is relevant to tests needed. (2)
  • Evaluate the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of laboratory services on an ongoing basis. Verify that all necessary specimens have been collected, that all requested analyses have been performed and that all test results have been delivered to referral sources in due time. Monitor quality control data to rapidly identify analytical deficiencies. Document errors and note the remedial actions that have been taken. (3)
  • Evaluate the completeness and clarity of procedures you have just written for the collection, identification, transportation, preparation, storage and analysis of specimens. Ensure that crucial information has not been omitted and wording is not open to misinterpretation. (3)
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