Laboratory Science and Medical Labs

RitambharaRitambhara’s favourite time in high school used to be during Science laboratory classes.  She was her happiest when surrounded by a microscope, petri dishes and slides. 

Today, she has a much larger laboratory to work in and is the Acting Lab Superintendent of Lautoka Hospital. 

“I like to believe that the field chose me. Everything about it intrigues me,” she said.

Medical laboratory scientists are key members of the medical society, working in all areas of the clinical laboratory, including blood banking, chemistry, hematology, immunology, histology and microbiology. They perform a full range of laboratory tests – from simple prenatal blood tests to more complex tests to uncover diseases such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and cancer. Their information influences the medical treatment a patient will receive. As such, medical laboratory scientists play a very essential role.

Education and Career

Ritambhara was born and raised in Fiji’s Sugar City – Lautoka. She attended Lautoka Primary School and Natabua High School. After high school she moved to Suva to pursue further studies at the Fiji School of Medicine (FSM), now the Fiji National University’s (FNU), College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences (CMNHS).

Staying true to her interest, she enrolled in the Diploma in Medical Laboratory Technology programme. The year was 1998 and was the first time for her to be away from home.

“I was very excited to embark on this journey. Although I would be away from home, I had a number of friends from high school going to FSM so I was not worried. ,” she said.

Ritambhara graduated with the Diploma in Medical Laboratory Technology after two years in December 2000.

“My time as FSM was great. I made a lot friends and most of them are still my friends. I remember participating in the Indian Student Association activities with friends. This used to be something we always looked forward to – was an excellent diversion from studies. My best memory, however, is when I was presented the highest scorer award for Haematology and Blood Bank subjects,” she reminisces.

She completed her internship at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital (CWMH) and was then posted to the Lautoka Hospital as the Biochemistry Section Technician.

Her role included analysing all types of specimen received in the section using automated and manual methods as applicable, performing venipuncture, recording and interpreting results effectively, performing on-call duties and assisting other on-call staff.

While working she also enrolled in the Bachelor in Medical Laboratory Science programme at FSM as a part time student.

After serving as the Biochemistry Section Technician for almost nine years, she was promoted to Head of Biochemistry section at the Lautoka hospital in January 2009. She graduated with a Bachelor in Medical Laboratory Science in the same year.

Ritambhara was a dedicated student and maintained a sheer interest in learning more and upgrading her qualification. As such after attaining a Bachelor’s qualification, she enrolled in the Postgraduate Diploma in Health Service Management programme at FNU as a part time student. She graduated in December 2014 andmoved to Suva to work at the Logistics Management Unit of the Fiji Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Supplies Center as the Logistics Coordinator (Laboratory). Her key role was to maintain supply chain of laboratory reagents and consumables.

“I love laboratory science. Keen to learn more, I always read about it and I believe upgrading my qualification also allows me to enhance my knowledge and skills and contribute more towards the health of the country,” she shares.

In 2016, she moved back to Lautoka Hospital as the Senior Technical Officer. This is an administrative role, ensuring optimum quality and excellent service delivery to the public. She also enrolled in the Master of Health Service Management programme at FNU and is currently the Acting Laboratory Superintendent at the Lautoka Hospital overseeing the operation of the Pathology Laboratory at the Lautoka Hospital. She is also responsible for technical matters at the Sub Divisional Laboratories for Western Division.

“I enjoy the scope of my current role which includes planning, operations, monitoring and evaluation and risk mitigation,” she added.

Words of Wisdom

Ritambhara shared her top three tips for those starting out in their careers.

“The three most important and basic tips for anyone starting a career are to develop good time management habit, learn to be a team player and focus on good quality of work. This will take you a long way. These tips are guaranteed to give you success in whatever work you do,” she said.

She also shared a piece of advice with students saying that education is a life long journey which should not stop with the first formal qualification.

“There is always room for improvement or upgrade,” she added.