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Medical Laboratory Assistant

Applied Certificate
Medical Laboratory Assistant

Program Overview

Medical laboratory assistants work directly with other health care providers and patients and in the exciting laboratory setting. You collect health information and medical specimens from patients, but you also enter clerical data, process specimens and assist with basic laboratory activities. It’s a job that requires good people and communication skills, a professional yet caring attitude and a commitment to teamwork and excellence, as well as attention to detail.

Medical lab assistants are in demand in many areas. Look for jobs in hospitals, community clinics, medical offices, research and pharmaceutical labs, veterinary clinics, chiropractic and physiotherapy offices and more.

Medical Laboratory Assistant is a nationally accredited 27-week applied certificate program offered at Saskatchewan Polytechnic Saskatoon campus . Some classes are also available through distance education. Labs and clinical experiences are a big part of the program, so expect hands-on training in:

  • anatomy and physiology
  • basic lab procedures
  • histology and cytology
  • infection control and safety
  • microbiology     
  • specimen collection and handling

Put Your Learning to Work

You’ll participate in five supervised clinical experiences, for a total of 11 weeks of training. Each will give you practical experience in a specific area: histology and cytology, specimen management, phlebotomy and microbiology. These clinical experiences take place at various sites around the province.

Ladder into a Saskatchewan Polytechnic Diploma

You can transfer several Medical Laboratory Assistant courses into Saskatchewan Polytechnic Health Sciences diploma programs, including Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technology, Cytotechnology, Medical Laboratory Technology and Medical Radiologic Technology.

Learning Environment

Each year, 16 students are accepted to this program. You can use this applied certificate to ladder into Combined Laboratory and X-ray Technology, Medical radiologic Technology, Therapeutic Recreation Worker, and Funeral Service programs at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

Students will experience a mix of traditional lectures, web-assisted learning, homestudy, practical and clinical labs. For this program, there is a heavy workload with 15 - 20 hours/week of homework. School hours may begin at 8:00 a.m. and go until 4:00 p.m., Monday - Friday except during clinical practicums where hours will coincide with health care hours. Clinical practicum hours can start as early as 7:00 a.m.

Career and Salary Information

Your Career

As a medical laboratory assistant, you could work in a hospital, community clinic, medical office, research lab, pharmaceutical lab, veterinary clinic, chiropractic and physiotherapy offices and more. Look for job opportunities with regional health districts, government health agencies, educational institutions and private labs.

International applicants are not currently considered for admission.

Potential Careers

Sample Job TitleNOC Classification1Earning Potential2
Laboratory Assistant (multidisciplinary)Medical Laboratory Technicians (3212)$39,600 - $70,800
Senior Laboratory AssistantMedical Laboratory Technicians (3212)$39,600 - $70,800

What's the Work Like?

As a Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) and MLA student, you:

  • Use Personal Protective Equipment to protect yourself from biohazardous materials, including blood and other body fluids, urine and cerebral spinal fluid (CSF).
  • Perform capillary punctures and venipunctures (give i.e. insert needles) to collect blood samples. 
  • Prepare blood, body fluids and tissues for analysis by other laboratory professionals, such as Combined Laboratory and X-ray Technologists (CLXT) and Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLT). 
  • Communicate and interact professionally with patients, their families, MLTs, doctors nurses and other hospital personnel on a daily basis.
  • Are an integral part of the health care team.

When performing ECGs, as an MLA you are required to:

  • Communicate clearly with the patient what you are going to do as well as what you need the patient to do.
  • Touch the patient to position the ECG leads correctly. 
  • Communicate results to physicians.

Every day, as an MLA you are required to:

  • Stand and walk for the majority of an 8 hour shift.
  • Communicate professionally with a variety of people including: 
    • Patients and their families;
    • Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLTs);
    • Doctors;
    • Nurses;
    • Other hospital personnel.

Interests
Interests describe what people enjoy doing often in the course of a day. Individuals in this program often enjoy:

  • Meeting clear standards for performance in concrete terms.
  • Working with details and numbers.
  • Following orderly routines and schedules.
  • Working in the health care field due to genuine concern for others.
  • Interacting with others.

Values
Values describe what the potential students have a high regard for, what gives meaning to their work and their lives, and what things they will work hard for:

  • Taking a realistic, concrete approach to problems and dealing with things.
  • Accuracy and order in work, and managing large volumes of information.
  • Stability, not a lot of change in the workplace.
  • Friendship and service to others.

Aptitudes/strengths
Aptitudes or strengths are natural abilities, talents and general suitability for learning in a particular field. An example is a musical aptitude/talent where people have a natural ability; therefore, it is easier for them to develop skills in this area. Another example is mechanical ability. People with this natural talent are able to learn mechanical skills more easily than others who lack the suitability.

  • Ability to pay careful attention to detail and follow instructions closely.
  • Scientific ability - understanding scientific principles, investigating and problem solving using the scientific method.
  • Organizing ability - talent for collecting and organizing information and keeping track of large amounts of data.

Entrance skills
A skill is learned and developed. It is the learned capacity to do something that has been practiced and worked on until it can be done easily. It is expected that individuals entering the program will have developed a reasonable level of skill in the following areas in order to successfully complete the program:

  • Analyzing information to help solve problems.
  • Getting along well with others, individually and in teams.
  • Setting up and keeping accurate records.

The purpose of this section is to give you an understanding of this career field and to help you make more informed career decisions.

There are 9 skill categories with examples of how workers use them on the job. This section is based on the more detailed Essential Skills developed by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

  • Read emails, interoffice memos, newsletters, safety manuals, and policy manuals
  • Read requisitions from doctors on which tests to be performed
  • Read forms to obtain information on tests

Using documents refers to tasks that involve a variety of information displays in which words, numbers, icons and other visual characteristics appear. It may involve reading, writing and/or creating.

  • Read work schedules and complete time sheets
  • Complete patient requisition forms
  • Complete specimen tracking logs
  • Document work accurately where required on forms
  • Must be legible
  • Fill in time sheets
  • Write short explanatory letters, interoffice memos and email messages about work progress and concerns
  • Record information when collecting blood and other specimens
  • Reading health card numbers
  • Counting numbers of test kits
  • Calculating numbers of patient visits
  • Reading required quantities in litres and millilitres
  • Understanding the process of diluting substances
  • Reading clocks (analog and digital), graduated cylinders, and measuring devices
  • Communicate with patients to get information, give information and/or reassure them
  • Communicate with other health care workers (such as coworkers, supervisors, nurses and doctors)
  • Communication may be difficult when there is noise from some lab equipment, when the patient’s first language is not English, with some physical and/or mentally disabled patients, with fearful patients and with young children who cannot talk
  • If English is not your first language, your oral communication skills must be 8+ on the Canadian Language Benchmark test

Problem solving (1 of 5 thinking skills)

  • Investigate problems with turnaround time
  • Deal with missing specimens
  • May help develop solutions when facing deadlines that cannot be met
  • Deal with personality conflicts in ever changing and high stress work environments
  • Deal with hierarchy of roles and influence (for example, assistant versus technologist)

Decision making (2 of 5 thinking skills)
This refers to making a choice among options. Decision making occurs during problem solving but not all decision making is part of problem solving. Therefore, it is presented as a separate thinking skill. For example, buyers for retail outlets regularly make decisions about which suppliers to buy from and they select among the options for particular types of merchandise. This is not problem solving.

  • Decide when to ask for help with completing certain procedures
  • Decide when to refuse service
  • Decide on what order to collect specimens

Job task planning and organizing (3 of 5 thinking skills)

  • Work is often organized within priorities and deadlines
  • Emergencies may often disrupt a work schedule
  • Work is coordinated with other coworkers for certain tests

Significant use of memory (4 of 5 thinking skills)

  • Where they were in a procedure when they were interrupted
  • What procedures are used for which tasks
  • The name of tests and where tests should be forwarded
  • Past interactions with patients when working with patients
  • The location of supplies and equipment

Finding information (5 of 5 thinking skills)

  • Use reference and procedure manuals
  • Use institutional and computer databases
  • Talk to other health care workers (such as coworkers, supervisors, nurses and doctors)
  • Scan lists and tables for information
May work alone or as a member of the patient's health care team.
  • Basic knowledge and operation of computerized lab
  • Use institutional database to access patient information
  • Ability to use specialized computer software (for example, Lab Information System (LIS) – to enter and access patient information)

Learning is through on the job training, from coworkers, employer sponsored training and by attending conferences.

Length and Start Date

Start Date(s): November

Length: 27 weeks

 

NOTE:  Effective for the 2016 intake, the First Qualified/First Admitted admission method applies to this program.

 

Locations

  • Saskatchewan Polytechnic Saskatoon campus

Admissions

Admission Requirements

  • 30 words per minute keyboarding speed with 90% accuracy (to be submitted with transcripts). (Testing is available through Saskatchewan Polytechnic Testing Services).
  • Grade 12 with a minimum grade of 70% in each of English Language Arts A30, English Language Arts B30, Foundations of Math 20 or Foundations of Math 30 or Pre-Calculus 30*, Health Science 20 or Biology 30*, and Physical Science 20 or Chemistry 30*
  • English Language Requirement

*Previous Saskatchewan biology, chemistry, and mathematics requirements also accepted:

  • Biology 20
  • Chemistry 20
  • Math 20 or any 30-level math

Note

  • CPR Heartsaver " C" AED or equivalent is required prior to entry into the clinical practicum. (Standard First Aid is no longer required).
  • Accepted applicants will be required to provide evidence of a Criminal Record Check and Vulnerable Sector Search upon admission into the program. At the discretion of the practicum agency, you may be declined access to a clinical or work placement based on the contents of the Criminal Record Check and Vulnerable Sector Search. The cost of the Criminal Record Check and Vulnerable Sector Search is your responsibility.
  • Accepted applicants are required to provide current immunization records and meet Saskatchewan Polytechnic immunization requirements prior to entry into clinical practicum. 

Clinical Practicum Experiences

  • Eleven weeks at various sites around Saskatchewan

Clinical practicum experiences are assigned by the Medical Diagnostics Committee on Practicum Placements (COPP). There are limited clinical placements in each location. Enrolment in the program will require acceptance of the clinical placement as assigned and this placement may be outside of Saskatoon.

Special Admission

Applicants who do not possess the academic qualifications for a program may be admitted if evidence of probable success can be established through a special admission assessment. Interested individuals should still apply. Applicants are automatically considered for special admission. However, some specific admission requirements may still need to be met. Refer to the ACCUPLACER© cut scores for this program below, and review additional details concerning Special Admission.

ACCUPLACER©

  • 90 Arithmetic
  • 85 Reading
  • 85 Sentence
  • 4 WritePlacer

Admission Method

First Qualified/First Admitted

The First Qualified/First Admitted (FQFA) process is used for the majority of Saskatchewan Polytechnic programs. When we determine that you meet the program's admission requirements, you will be offered admission based on the date you fully qualify for the program. The earlier you provide the appropriate documents and information that qualify you for admission to the next intake, the earlier you might begin your studies. Your application, once qualified, is always considered for the next intake. 

Applicants to programs with multiple intakes in an academic year remain in the application pool until the last intake for that academic year has begun. Programs using the FQFA process receive applications year round and maintain an application pool for each academic year. Qualified applicants who are not offered a seat must reapply for the next academic year. 

Sponsored programs or programs targeted to specific groups do not accept applications year round or maintain an application pool.

See Admission Processes for more information about this method of admission.

Tuition and Fees

Estimates are based on current rates and are subject to change. Amounts for a program may vary by campus. Totals shown here include all mandatory fees as well as books and supplies. For a complete breakdown of tuition and fees for this program, click here to access the Saskatchewan Polytechnic campus Tuition and Fee Schedules.

 

$10,400

Courses

Expand All +
Code
Name/Description
Credits
 
APHY 189
Anatomy and Physiology
3
Show course details
You will be introduced to the study of the human body and how it functions efficiently. You will study various body systems that are of critical importance for the promotion and maintenance of health.
Credit Units: 3
Course Hours: 40.0
Equivalent Course(s): APHY 188, APHY 282, NURS 111
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Online, Lecture/Theory, Print Distance Group
CLIN 198
Clinical ECG
2
Show course details
You will participate in a supervised clinical experience at an assigned clinical site. Upon successfully completing this experience, you will be able to competently perform ECGs.
Credit Units: 2
Course Hours: 37.0
Prerequisites(s): SIMU 280 or SIMU 100
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Clinical/Practicum
ECRD 180
Electrocardiography
3
Show course details
Your studies will focus on the theoretical aspects required to perform electrocardiograms. The course content includes recording techniques, recognizing artifacts and identifying remedies to minimize them, and recognizing basic cardiac arrhythmias.
Credit Units: 3
Course Hours: 45.0
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Online, Lecture/Lab
ETHC 185
Professional Practices 1
3
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You will receive an introduction to health care and health care delivery systems. You will study the legal and ethical issues faced by health care professionals. You will discuss interpersonal and employability skills required in health care professions with an emphasis on teamwork, communication and stress management. You will learn methods to deal with grief and loss, in addition to skills and techniques for critical thinking and conflict management.
Credit Units: 3
Course Hours: 42.0
Equivalent Course(s): HUMR 182
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Lecture/Theory, Print Distance Group
HSTC 188
Introduction to Histology & Cytology
2
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You will receive the theory and practice required to assist with the preparation of clinical specimens for microscopic examination. The course content includes specimen receiving and processing, block preparation and basic staining.
Credit Units: 2
Course Hours: 32.0
Prerequisites(s): APHY 189(concurrent), MTER 180, PROC 180(concurrent), PROC 181(concurrent)
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Online, Lecture/Lab
INFC 180
Infection Control and Safety
2
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You will study the transmission of microorganisms, blood-borne pathogens (i.e. hepatitis virus and HIV), standard precautions, isolation procedures, immunization for medical workers, sterilization and disinfection, biohazard waste, safety and WHMIS.
Credit Units: 2
Course Hours: 25.0
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Online, Print Distance Individual, Lecture/Lab, Print Distance Group
MICR 190
Introduction to Microbiology
2
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You will receive the theory and practice required to culture routine microbiology specimens. You will discuss media composition, autoclaving and quality control. The course content includes stool preparation for parasitology examination and Gram staining.
Credit Units: 2
Course Hours: 30.0
Prerequisites(s): MTER 180, PROC 180(concurrent), PROC 181(concurrent)
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Online, Lecture/Lab
MTER 180
Medical Terminology
1
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You will learn to use the prefixes, suffixes and combining forms from which medical terms are derived. You will also learn to use medical abbreviations.
Credit Units: 1
Course Hours: 10.0
Equivalent Course(s): MED 161
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Online, Print Distance Individual, Lecture/Theory, Print Distance Group
PRAC 127
Specimen Management Practicum
7
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You will participate in a supervised clinical experience. Upon successfully completing this experience, you will be able to perform specimen accessioning and several specific procedures in the clinical laboratory.
Credit Units: 7
Course Hours: 108.0
Prerequisites(s): SIMU 100
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Clinical/Practicum
PRAC 128
Phlebotomy Practicum
5
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You will participate in a supervised clinical experience. Upon successfully completing this experience, you will be able to perform phlebotomy.
Credit Units: 5
Course Hours: 72.0
Prerequisites(s): SIMU 100
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Clinical/Practicum
PRAC 129
Histology & Cytology Preparation
4
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You will participate in a supervised clinical experience. Upon successfully completing this experience, you will be able to assist with routine histological/cytological specimen preparation.
Credit Units: 4
Course Hours: 65.0
Prerequisites(s): SIMU 100
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Clinical/Practicum
PRAC 130
Microbiology Preparation
5
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You will participate in a supervised clinical experience. Upon successfully completing this experience, you will be able to prepare culture media, autoclave and assist with specimen culture and preparation.
Credit Units: 5
Course Hours: 72.0
Prerequisites(s): SIMU 100
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Clinical/Practicum
PROC 180
General Laboratory Practice
2
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You will receive the theory and practice required to perform basic procedures in a laboratory. The course content includes laboratory glassware, use of balances, centrifuges, thermal equipment, pH meters, microscopes and solution preparation with related calculations.
Credit Units: 2
Course Hours: 37.0
Prerequisites(s): INFC 180
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Online, Lecture/Lab
PROC 181
Specimen Collection and Handling
3
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You will learn how to collect, handle and transport various laboratory specimens to ensure the quality of laboratory results. The collection of blood specimens will be emphasized. You will practice capillary and venous collection on adults at various sites in the community.
Credit Units: 3
Course Hours: 40.0
Prerequisites(s): INFC 180
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Online, Lecture/Lab, Print Distance Group
PROC 183
Introduction to Basic Lab Procedures
3
Show course details
You will receive the theory and practice required to perform basic procedures in the clinical laboratory areas of specimen management, hematology and clinical chemistry. You will discuss the role of quality assurance. You will demonstrate techniques for erythrocyte sedimentation rate, preparing and staining peripheral smears, macroscopic urine testing, urine pregnancy and fecal occult blood testing.
Credit Units: 3
Course Hours: 40.0
Prerequisites(s): MTER 180, PROC 180(concurrent), PROC 181(concurrent)
Potential Learning Method(s): Prior Learning, Online, Lecture/Lab
SIMU 100
Clinical Orientation
2
Show course details
You will participate in a 30 hour simulation to help prepare you for your clinical experience. The course will focus on skill development in laboratory and ECG. The experience will assist you to correlate your theory to real patient situations. You will demonstrate your ability to prioritize, organize, and implement procedures. Your ability to apply professional practice will be stressed. You will discuss workplace documents and effective job search strategies.
Credit Units: 2
Course Hours: 30.0
Prerequisites(s): ECRD 180, ETHC 185, PROC 183, HSTC 188, MICR 190
Potential Learning Method(s): Online, Lab/Practical

PLAR & Transfer Credit

Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition

Saskatchewan Polytechnic recognizes that adults learn in many different ways and through many different means. This includes acquiring knowledge and skills through life and work experience or non-formal training. A detailed Candidate Guide, which includes a self-audit for all PLAR-ready courses, has been developed for this program. This information guides a candidate through all steps in the PLAR process.


Transfer Credit

Many Saskatchewan Polytechnic students benefit from transferring credit. You may be eligible to transfer credit from or to another college or university. To learn more, visit our transfer credit web page.

 

Student Awards

Thanks to the generosity of donors and alumni, Saskatchewan Polytechnic gives away more than $2 million in student awards during the academic year.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic offers student awards for every certificate and diploma program at every campus. You don't have to be a brainiac to receive a student award. Not all student awards are based on marks - some are based on financial need or things like community or volunteer involvement.

More about scholarships

Accreditation

Canadian Medical Association, valid for 6 years until January 2017.

As a graduate of our nationally accredited program, you’ll be qualified to write the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) certification exam. Certification is the accepted standard for many jobs – it also allows you to work anywhere in Canada.

Additional Information

Related Programs

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