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Meet a Medical Technologist

Updated: May 24, 2021

Hi, I am Ms Noluthando Duma and I am a Medical Technologist. I have completed my National Diploma in Biomedical Technology.

I work at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in Johannesburg at the Centre of Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis where we perform surveillance and research on respiratory and meningeal causing pathogens. We also work highly with data from around the country and partly from African laboratories. A day at work is determined by the study that we are working on in the department. In the laboratory, I perform both phenotypic and genotypic testing of specimens. Lately, I have been involved in PCR testing of COVID-19 samples received at the laboratory for research purposes.

One of the pros of working here are the different students, the different individuals, doctors and the different studies we work with. We all work under pressure and of course the standard of working for an institution as large and influential as the NICD means that you learn to be exemplary and work as best as you can.

A con is that you are under pressure all of the time. I usually refer to us as the "health police" because we are on the watch for any changes in the trends of the health of South Africans. We need to detect, test, diagnose and give results as soon as possible. The pressure is not entirely a con because sometimes it is really lovely to work under pressure, it keeps you on your feet and also allows you to learn at every turn.

When I was younger, I wanted to become a Doctor but due to study fees, I somehow landed in a University of Technology doing Biomedical Technology. Yes, I am doing exactly what I studied. Biomedical Technology is a hands-on practical course and teaches one how to manage a laboratory from start to end. From testing to reporting of results and liaising with different doctors around the country, so I am doing exactly this but just on a larger scale.

Some other requirements you may need to become a Biomedical Technologist include you having to write a written board exam administered by the Society for Medical Laboratory Technologists of South Africa (SMLTSA). When you do your last year of study you are registered by your university as a student medical technologist with the HPCSA and later you register as an intern then, once you qualify, you register as a qualified medical technologist with the HPCSA.

COVID-19 somehow highlighted the importance of medical technologists globally. The role-played is seen in the numbers presented around the world. The number of tests conducted basically means that there were medical technologists in the lab who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the specimens are tested; and it has been an exceptionally beautiful journey so anyone wanting to join the field should join it for the love of making a difference in the lives of the people in this country and globally

Medical Technology remains a hidden profession and honour is usually not given to those who toil day in and day out to get results out to doctors. I personally want to raise the flag and shine a light on all of our technologists for all the great work that they have been doing around the world. It has not gone unnoticed.

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