By Caty Bruening, MT, Laboratory Supervisor
In most people’s opinion, having blood drawn is not the highlight of a doctor’s appointment, ER visit, or hospitalization; yet lab results from these blood samples play a considerable part in the diagnosis and care plan of a patient’s health. It is said that 70% of a patient’s medical record is composed of lab results. The Lab Techs at Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH) consider themselves fortunate to collect blood, so that they can have that connection with patients that larger hospital laboratorians don’t experience. The lab staff at VMH ensure each blood draw is performed with care, comfort and quality in mind. However, the blood draw is only a small part in the series of the care given by a lab tech.
Before the blood is collected, lab techs must ensure the accurate performance of the testing equipment. CLIA, the VMH Lab’s regulating agency, performs bi-annual inspections of the lab, ensuring the performance of Quality Control, the competency of lab personnel and the successful participation in proficiency surveys, among many other rules and regulations. Each day, Quality Control is performed by analyzing materials that simulate patient samples. These “mock” samples contain known levels of each analyte (ex. Potassium, White Blood Cell count) and are run on each analyzer as a sort of “test” to ensure the analyzer is working properly and produces the “right answer.” When this testing is complete, only then is it acceptable to run patients on these analyzers or manual test methods.
Once the sample is received in the lab, the care continues. Approximately 90 different lab tests are performed at VMH. Each test has its own requirements, and each test requires specific training. Being a lab tech requires one to be very analytical, maintain attention to detail, and possess critical thinking skills. Equally as important is the calling to care. The lab techs at VMH collect, test and care for each sample “as if it were a family member’s.” They take pride in being the part of the medical team that detects disease states such as infection, leukemia, or kidney failure in the earliest stages, even before symptoms arise. Although lab techs are not by the patient’s bedside to deliver results, they still feel the ups and downs of health challenges such as fertility testing, the journey to cancer remission, and medication management.
In the last year, the VMH lab has performed about 44,400 lab tests. Each of these tests has had an impact on a patient’s medical care, and each test was performed here in Waukon, proudly and with exceptional care by your medical team “behind the scenes” in the VMH lab.