Specimen Processor Job Description
A specimen processor is a medical laboratory professional who works with samples including blood, bacteria, body tissue, organs, and possibly other materials. Job expectations can vary based on the type of samples that a person works with, but generally specimen processors work in medical laboratories, receiving and cataloging specimens from clients for tests and analyses. They may be responsible for testing, but if so, it is likely that they are only assigned basic tests; more complex tests are performed by professional laboratory technicians.
An aspiring specimen processor should have a high school diploma or equivalent. Prior laboratory experience is typically preferred by employers. Certain roles may require an associate’s degree in phlebotomy, but that is not always required.
Specimen Processor Duties and Responsibilities
While the day-to-day duties of a specimen processor are determined by their employer, there are many core tasks associated with the role. Based on our analysis of job listings, these include:
Specimen processors are expected to receive, process, unload, and unpack all specimens for testing in the appropriate laboratory departments. Specimen processors determine if specimens meet laboratory standards, document any quality issues, and ensure specimens are discarded properly. A person in this role is expected to inform the nursing, phlebotomy, and medical staff about unsuitable specimens and inappropriate collection.
Prepare Patient Records
Based on findings, specimen processors are expected to accurately document relevant patient information. This data includes names, ages, doctors, addresses, and the tests being performed. Specimen processors may be asked to pull patient records for laboratory technicians as needed.
Provide Laboratory Support
Specimen processors play a large role in the upkeep of the laboratory. This can include managing lab inventory, preparing and cleaning lab instruments, ensuring all work areas are clean, and performing clerical duties as necessary.
Specimen Processor Skills and Qualifications
A successful specimen processor is well organized and very detail oriented. Additionally, employers prefer candidates who possess the following abilities:
- Communication skills – it is crucial that a person in this role has the ability to communicate any specimen-related information or issues to peers and management clearly and effectively
- Attention to detail – specimen processors are efficient, motivated, and detail oriented, as lab testing requires maximum accuracy
- Problem-solving skills – specimen processors are expected to identify issues with specimen types, missing information, and other problems. They must engage the lab technician or client services department to help resolve them
- Peer training – training new lab employees on the appropriate procedures, safety protocols, and data entry processes is a common responsibility
- Dexterity – both manual dexterity and acuity are necessary to prepare and screen specimens, prepare solutions, and operate instrumentation and computers
Specimen Processor Education and Training
A high school diploma or the equivalent is usually needed to work as a specimen processor. Employers typically look for candidates who have knowledge of medical terminology, maintaining patient health records, and conducting data entry. Many also seek candidates with at least one year of academic training or previous work experience in a lab. Depending on the employer, an associate’s degree in phlebotomy, medical data entry, or a related field may be required.
Specimen Processor Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that this career field will grow 13 percent by 2026, which is faster than the average for all occupations. An increase in the aging population is expected to lead to increased job prospects. According to PayScale, most workers in the field earn between $21,802 and $35,758 yearly, including overtime and bonuses. Salary rates can depend on a variety of factors, including required education, job duties, and location.
There are many helpful resources available for those interested in careers as specimen processors. Please review the links below for valuable information and the latest industry news:
The Complete Textbook of Phlebotomy – this book imparts the knowledge phlebotomists need to become multiskilled professionals by emphasizing a hands-on learning approach
Phlebotomy: From Student to Professional – read this book to prepare for one of the fastest-growing healthcare careers. The text pays special focus to the soft skills students can use as they transition to working with patients in professional capacities
American Institute of Biological Sciences – AIBS advocates on behalf of organizations and individuals working in the biological sciences. It provides a host of resources for members, including publications, community events, and education opportunities
Essentials of Medical Laboratory Practice – check out this reference to review important lab terminology and familiarize yourself with the techniques, tests, and procedures most commonly performed in physicians’ offices
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