Week celebrates lab workers’ help

Published 12:01am Monday, April 21, 2014

Each year, one week is set aside to recognize the population of lab professionals around the country. Fourteen collaborating organizations promote Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, which takes place April 20-26.

Lab tests are important in patient care; but when the doctors tell patients their results, do most of them realize their blood work and/or other bodily specimen results are the product of experience, hard-work, dedication and education of a laboratory professional?

We are the “behind-the-scenes” workers that aid in diagnosing, treating and monitoring disease. We perform work in areas that most patients and visitors never see.

Physicians cannot do their work without the information we provide. We recognize that behind every specimen is a real person.

We work weekends, nights and holidays to provide timely and accurate results. We become experts in our field by years of training, continuing education, and certification; but most of all by experience.

Even though lab testing may be the invisible side of health care, it is necessary. The one area of the lab that most people do see is the phlebotomist draw station.

After the phlebotomist draws the blood, swabs the back of the throat, or takes a urine sample, that is the end of the experience for the patient. But this is only the beginning for the “test.”

The actual testing happens in the lab, where instruments and trained technicians process, analyze and report on what the specimens contained.

The lab is not a person, it is a place. The people in the lab are skilled and dedicated professionals who work together to provide high quality patient care. The lab contains machines that are run by highly trained individuals who deliver the test results that bring relief to waiting family members.

The people in the lab maintain the instruments that provide state-of-the-art analysis and perform quality control measures to ensure the results provided for your family are as accurate as possible; correlate the clinical situation with the patient condition as a means of providing valuable information to physicians; and continue to collect, test, and report vital information for your health and well-being.

The phlebotomist assures the quality and quantity of the specimen that the lab receives. The testing personnel actually perform the laboratory analysis.

The technical supervisor/lab manager is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the lab. The laboratory director is a doctor of pathology who has the ultimate responsibility for all laboratory operations.

The lab is not the first thing that many people think of in terms of their stay. It is not the first department you encounter when you walk in the door. It is not the department that wins national recognition.

Over 70 percent of the information generated by the lab is used in diagnosing the patient. The lab is vital. Without the people that work within its walls, our health care system would not survive.

Recent statistics show 80 percent of all medical laboratory workers in the United States are over the age of 50.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its report of job prospects for the next ten years. Health care topped the list, estimated to add 5 million new workers — one third of all new jobs. Furthermore, health care support occupations will surpass new health care practitioners by 6.6 percent.

The laboratory professional is not going the way of the dinosaur. As Americans age, more lab tests are required and are performed more frequently. As the age of the world population grows, so is the demand for lab medicine.

Because lab testing is part of preventative medicine, early detection can deter or reduce treatment. New technologies and test methods are being invented at the same time new diseases are emerging.

Medical Laboratory Week is about the lab, lab workers and sharing with others what we do. Congratulations to everyone.

Celeste Byrne Jones is a generalist at Riverland Medical Center.