Medical Laboratory Assistant

Winter 2017 start: applications are accepted June 1, 2016 to Jan. 9, 2017.
  Fall 2017 start:
applications open on Oct. 19, 2016.

  •  19-week certificate
  •  Fall and Winter starts
  •  Includes clinical laboratory practicum

Program description

Watch a video about Medical Laboratory Assistant studies at SAIT PolytechnicA medical laboratory assistant is an integral member of the laboratory workforce, a field that is not only growing to meet the needs of an increasing and aging population, but also changing to support medical advances. The Medical Laboratory Assistant program trains students to collect, process, and prepare patient specimens, enter data, perform clerical and reception services, perform electrocardiograms and urinalyses and carry out basic laboratory procedures. Medical laboratory assistants must be accurate, self-motivated and dependable with a skilled eye for detail and strong client service skills.

The Medical Laboratory Assistant program consists of 12 weeks of classroom instruction and laboratory training followed by a seven week practicum. The first week of practicum is spent in a simulated environment at SAIT. The rest of the practicum period is spent in a clinical laboratory where students refine competencies acquired at SAIT. Practicum sites are arranged by SAIT. Students must expect to train outside of Calgary either totally or in-part. The seven weeks of practicum are not necessarily consecutive and may not be continuous with the end of the theory portion of the program.

Certain courses are available by distance education or continuing education - INFC 215, MEDL 245, MEDT 211, PROF 240. The courses must be completed within the time frame shown in the Program Outline. Please be advised that full-time student status requires the student to take 60 percent of a full course load per semester. Depending on the number of courses completed by distance education or continuing education, students may be considered a part-time student, which may impact their financial loan status.

Students in this program require access to a personal computer and the Internet to facilitate completion of required online course components.

Your Career

Graduates find work as medical laboratory assistants in community collection sites, hospital rapid-response laboratories, high-volume medical laboratories and private insurance or home care companies. The employment requires flexibility (shift-work), good health and manual dexterity. Medical laboratory assistants work in laboratory environments where they may spend a considerable amount of time standing or sitting and performing tasks that may be repetitive. They must observe safety precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to infectious body fluids and dangerous chemicals. Graduates are often hired into casual positions initially which usually progress to full-time positions within one year of hire. In order to find employment, many graduates must relocate across Alberta and potentially even throughout Canada.

Student Success

  • Students with higher secondary or post-secondary marks usually experience greater success in SAIT programs.
  • In order to be successful in this program, applicants must have basic computer literacy. An acceptable computer skill level would include the ability to use word processing and communication software. Educational interaction in this program depends on these basic computer skills and medical laboratory assistants work with laboratory and hospital information systems. It is the student's responsibility to ensure adequacy of these skills prior to program admission.
  • A keyboarding/data entry speed of 30 wpm net or better is required. Applicants will be required to complete a program determined keyboarding assessment (available at SAIT for a minimal fee) prior to admission to the program.
  • Students who experience success in this program have the following characteristics:
    • The ability to follow instructions, pay close attention to detail and take precise readings,
    • The ability to work quickly and accurately,
    • Good finger and manual dexterity to handle specimens and small laboratory equipment,
    • Normal colour vision,
    • Good communication and problem solving skills,
    • Good organizational skills,
    • The interpersonal skills and effective communication skills in English required to work well with co-workers and the public.
  • Medical laboratory assistants enjoy working with people, like direct contact with patients and do not mind shift work.