Health Break | Published April 23, 2007 | Written by Michael Archer

Patients' Care A Top Concern For Workers

National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week is this week, April 22-28, 2007—a time to recognize quality care from quality professionals and remind patients how to prepare for a laboratory procedure.

When preparing for your visit to the laboratory:

  • Pay attention to fasting orders. Certain lab tests cannot be performed if you have eaten within a specified time and will have to be rescheduled to achieve accurate results.

  • Remember, our staff is well prepared to deal with patients' anxieties when blood is being drawn. We will work with you to make the draw as comfortable as possible.

  • Avoid restrictive clothing when having a blood draw. Sleeves should be loose and able to pull above the elbow.

  • Bring your physician's orders for lab work and all other appropriate paperwork.

The laboratory at Mount Nittany Medical Center is a large participant in the medical care of the surrounding communities. Within eight years the laboratory has doubled—performing 1.4 million test procedures per year. For a facility of this size the laboratory has a remarkably high volume of blood products transfused yearly with about 3200 transfusions per year. With those numbers it isn't hard to imagine that many clinical decisions are the direct result of laboratory data and information.

To obtain information and provide physicians with the ability to make informed decisions, laboratory professionals follow a process based on statistics. In order to safeguard your health, we provide a variety of measures to ensure our tests are accurate and precise. All clinical testing has control material that runs periodically throughout the day to ensure testing is within acceptable ranges. Maintenance procedures are performed on all laboratory instrumentation on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Laboratory professionals must test proficiency samples, and send the results back to the outside company for review and quality control. Routine inspections of laboratory facilities and the facility's operating procedures are performed. To ensure quality care from quality professionals in a quality environment, several precautions are put in place.

The laboratory operates with many quality professionals. One of the laboratory professions is the clinical laboratory scientist (CLS, for short). The laboratory scientist provides the laboratory data that clinicians order. The CLS performs biochemical, microscopic, serological, immunological, molecular, and microbiological testing. To do so the CLS must take immunology, molecular biology, physics, calculus, microbiology, genetics, biochemistry, organic chemistry, and the other pre-med undergraduate classes. Then the student must do a year-long clinical education at a hospital-based program. After completing a bachelor of science, a CLS will sit for a national registration examination. The undergraduate and clinical educations are rigorous training experiences that prepare individuals for the task of generating accurate laboratory results and information for the patient and physician.

As medical professionals, laboratorians are often "behind the scenes." We are not visibly involved in your healthcare, but many clinical decisions are the direct result of laboratory data and information. We perform a high-volume of healthcare testing through the medical center, nursing homes, physician offices, and other medical facilities. So during National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week consider how integral laboratory testing is to our local communities and the medical care of you and your loved ones.

Michael Archer is the Director of School of Medical Technology at Mount Nittany Medical Center.