Celebrate Medical Laboratory Week

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 25, 2016

Laboratory professionals find the unexpected. 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 this week.

Lab tests are important in patient care; but when the doctors tell patients their results, do most of them realize that their blood work and/or other bodily specimen results are the product of experience, hard work, dedication and education of a laboratory professional? Lab techs are not trained to interpret diagnostic tests and make treatment decisions, but physicians and other clinicians are trained by using lab test results.

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 that 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.

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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 that 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 laboratory testing personnel (who you do not usually see) actually perform the laboratory analysis. The technical supervisor/laboratory manager is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the lab. The lab director is a doctor of pathology who has the ultimate responsibility for all lab operations.

Louisiana is one of the few states that require medical laboratory personnel to obtain a state license. You need merely apply for one with your own personal information of where you have lived, gone to school and worked since you were born.

The lab is not the first thing that many people think of in terms of their stay. 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 and without the people that work within its walls, our healthcare system would not survive. Recent statistics show that 80 percent of all medical lab workers in the United States are over the age of 50. The ASCP Vacancy Survey findings show that overall vacancy rates increased in all departments of the lab, except for cytology and cytogenetics.

The lab 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 that new diseases are emerging.

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


Celeste Jones is a registered medical technologist at Riverland Medical Center.