Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, April 19-25, has been canceled due to COVID-19. There is no time to honor the unseen professions in the basement laboratory. Laboratorians are an invaluable part of the health care team, with approximately 70 percent of physician diagnosis and treatments relying on our results.
The clinical laboratory is constantly being asked to do more with less. Relentless decreases in reimbursement, aging populations (higher testing volumes), and an ongoing critical shortage of staff, make for a challenging environment. Automation and IT solutions can only do so much; you still need skilled laboratory personnel.
Our politicians point fingers, federal versus state, while comparing Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) molecular technology to an over-the-counter pregnancy test. The misleading public impression that you simply take an instrument out of the box, plug it in and start testing is ridiculous and false. Validation, quality control, regulatory requirements, needed reagents/consumables, training and competency evaluation are just a portion of what is required. The research and development that goes into a new laboratory test event is astounding. Under the current conditions and time frame, downright amazing!
Laboratorians are working diligently to achieve Illinois Gov. Pritzker’s goal of 10,000 COVID-19 tests performed daily. That is in addition to our normal laboratory testing workload. The public deserves accurate test results performed by qualified laboratory professionals in order to deliver excellent patient care.
I walk the basement corridors in my PPE and I “see” so many hospital professions: shipping and receiving, storeroom, laboratory, medical records, pharmacy, respiratory care, engineering, switchboard, environmental services, linens, biomed, sterile processing, food service and others. The hospital basement is its own bustling ecosystem. Everyone’s job in healthcare is equally valued, important and heroic. During this COVID-19 crisis, when your department receives complimentary pizza donated by the local Little League baseball teams, a stressful shift becomes a bit easier.
Perhaps you may be thinking of a career change, a global pandemic having encouraged these thoughts. Consider a highly rewarding profession in laboratory medicine, making a difference in patients’ lives one test at a time. Next year, absolutely there will be a celebration!
Tammy Frederici, MHA, MT (ASCP)