SJMH Lab

Submitted by Angie Cedeño

This week we want to wish the laboratory a very Happy Lab Week!!! The lab usually has a themed celebration which involves lots of food, games, and prizes all week long. They typically have vendors come in to present lunch-and-learns. Lab management provides lots of games, and they especially look forward to the lab scavenger hunt every year. Lab is very competitive. This year one of their games includes “Guess the Bitmoji” of lab staff and also random staff from the entire hospital. The lab staff look forward to lab week every year as a celebration of their hard work.

The laboratory is composed of Medical Laboratory Scientists (MLS), Medical Laboratory Technicians (MLT), and Phlebotomists. MLS and MLTs process and analyze specimens, perform laboratory tests, maintain instruments, and ensure quality behind all of the testing. Doctors are able to identify infections, choose appropriate antibiotic therapy, and diagnose diseases thanks to the hard work of these laboratory professionals. Medical laboratory scientists typically have a bachelor’s degree from a university. Medical laboratory technicians typically have associate degrees that have been completed through a community college. Both MLT and MLS can perform laboratory tests and are certified by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) which is their Board of Registry.

Phlebotomists at SJMH are all nationally certified. They are certified through NHA, ASPT, and AMT. Phlebotomists are eligible for certification from either taking a college curriculum to receive the phlebotomy certificate or from having numerous years of experience. Phlebotomists are highly skilled at phlebotomy technique, understanding patient identification, and ensuring that the pre-analytical process is followed to ensure accuracy of results. This includes drawing the tubes in a specific order, ensuring the needle enters at a specific angle, and understanding specimen integrity in the pre-analytical phase. Phlebotomists are fundamental to the laboratory and the hospital. Patient identification at the time of the blood draw helps ensure the correct results go back to the correct patient so that the nurse and doctor can treat the patient appropriately.

Each of the lab staff have their own success story or neat find that they get excited about and like to share with others. For instance, Tabby had a specimen that had a bacteria that had to be sent to the state for identification. After 3 weeks at the state, they were still unable to identify her rare find. Wanda discovered peculiar green crystals inside of white blood cells that was a first for SJMH and the pathologist both. This was indicative of liver dysfunction and have a special and unique name.

There are multiple departments in the laboratory where MLTs and MLSs work: Chemistry, Hematology, Microbiology, and Immunohematology. At SJMH, we have even begun molecular microbiology which started back in 2015. Chemistry is where they perform tests such as glucose, cholesterol, thyroid tests, and potassium. Hematology is where blood counts are evaluated for anemia and infections. Microbiology is where we test for bacteria and viruses. Immunohematology, often referred to as Blood Bank, is where we perform compatibility testing for patients to be transfused.

Although a lot of testing is now automated, the lab scientists and technicians must ensure the machines are working properly by giving regular maintenance, running quality control multiple times daily, and ensuring specimen quality and integrity.

The microbiology technicians are very good at their jobs. Sometimes they know what the organism is before the instrument reads the result just based on the smell. Pseudomonas smells like grapes. Hemophilus smells like dirty feet. Proteus smells like rotten fish. Eikenella often smells like bleach. That stale odor from your armpits. Yep. That’s Corynebacterium.

Hematology at SJMH is well-equipped to house students and often does multiple times per year. SJMH invested in a microscope with a teaching piece that allows 2 people to view in the microscope at the same time. SJMH also received a microscope with a camera and tablet attached. This allows the staff to take photos and videos of blood smears and organisms such as parasites.

The laboratory is highly regulated. Specifically the blood bank is one of the most regulated areas in the entire hospital. There are more than 1800 Joint Commission Standards for the hospital.  The laboratory itself has over 1200 standards. Approximately 600 of those standards are specific to just the blood bank. It is the one department that in the event of a deviance, must report directly to the FDA, which can result in very hefty fines.

All of lab plays a crucial role in patient care. We would like to give them a big thanks and celebrate them this week during National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week!