Support Your Local Laboratorian!
- This is Medical Laboratory Professionals Week
- Lab Professionals have been overworked, understaffed and under-appreciated this last year
- Lab professionals helped you get your diagnosis, and gave you a chance to fight
- Support your local lab professional
- Read more…
Lab professionals may be unseen, but they are oh, so necessary.
Breep! Breep! Bree- Rising like a monster from the primeval waters in the towering wrath of the newly awakened, I reached for the alarm clock and turned it off with a violent jerk. Mastering my annoyance, I glanced at the red glow of the numbers - 0225. I grabbed a set of scrubs and other morning necessities and stumbled downstairs as quietly as possible. Pausing along the way to pour 10 ounces of cold-brew coffee down my throat and starting the coffee machine on my down, I showered, trimmed and dressed in a slightly more alert haze. None of us are very philosophical at three in the morning, and I would try (and fail) to save my puttering around in return for a few more minutes of sleep in the morning. Stopping only to grab my keys, lunch, breakfast and more coffee, I was walking through the door of the hospital at 2:56 a.m. I only stopped to eat a couple of granola bars before walking into the lab and starting my day.
In times of COVID, the night shift was weary and stretched thin. I touched the back of my hand to the coffee pot and confirmed my worst fears - cold as a Midwestern morning. The poor souls were too busy to make a fresh pot, instead they swallowed the bitter liquid straight, no chaser. The lab hummed with activity: processors were off-loading the nights samples of blood tubes from the night shift phlebotomists, who were down to eight techs out of a team of twelve from last year. My alarm clock wasn’t the only thing beeping this morning: from the distance I could hear the not-so-gentle admonitions of the blood bank techs as they struggled with the space-age Panther, and the alarms were going off confirming that blood vials for COVID qt-PCR were ready for sonication, and that the microbiology samples were ready for their own analysis while the clinical chemistry staff were struggling to get the lab computer system to behave long enough for their samples to get through the analyzer - all before touching base with the POC staff about a new batch of samples from isolated patients on the COVID ward. All the while, a lullaby was playing over the loudspeakers as it always did when there was a new baby born. The nurses had a tough gig, to be sure, but they also got time to ogle over how cute the neonate was - the lab got a tube of blood to ship off for genetic testing while the anatomic pathology division got a plastic tub filled with placenta remains. Adorable.
The grossing counter was already filled with tubs, tubes and plastic pickle-jars filled with patient samples. The Ventana IHC machine (a bit of Arizona pride - they’re from Tucson) was blinking, with two full trays of yesterdays slides ready for a coverslip and a tray before they can be dropped on the pathologists desk -assuming they don’t need to have a morning chat with an irate surgeon or oncologist. The processors were also beeping - they had finished a fat run, a biopsy run, a skin run, and one of them hadn’t finished any, because it decided it needed a vacation day. Again. In fairness, we all needed one, but unlike us, the equipment got one. First thing to do was set up the line stainer and start embedding the stat samples and the cell blocks for the cytology technicians. Another alarm sounded - It was 3:15 a.m. Eight hours to go, if we were lucky.
For most of us, the medical lab only exists on TV - sexy people wearing colorful lab coats working magic with a room of remarkably well-behaved equipment shining with metallic glee and dropped off from your friendly neighborhood supermodel. All lies. This year, COVID-19 revealed just how fragile our diagnostic infrastructure can be: and how necessary all of our lab workers are.
This upcoming week is Medical Laboratory Professionals Week from the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP). It’s a week of free food, some games and even a little recognition from the higher-ups. But to the wider public, the only way to get our existence acknowledged is when we’re not there. This year, lab professionals have been overworked, understaffed and under-appreciated. But every COVID test you or a loved one has gotten has been the work of a medical lab professional, and not just that one test: we run thousands - maybe tens of thousands. If you or a loved one gets a diagnosis, chances are good that it was a lab professional who got you there - and gave you a chance to fight it. This year medical laboratorians have risen to new challenges - so support your local medical lab professional. They need it now more than ever.