Medical Laboratory Week: One test at a time

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Medical Laboratory Week is a great time to observe an industry that is not well understood. Medical laboratory technicians are essential in helping providers diagnose and treat you. Here’s a sneak peek at this fascinating career and why we need laboratory technicians more than ever.

Lab staff: Your first line of defense

If you were asked what the most uncomfortable part of a clinic visit is, you might say getting your blood drawn or providing a urine sample. It’s uncomfortable and pushes privacy boundaries. Have you ever considered that without that blood draw or urine sample, your provider might not be able to help you? The information provided by your blood and urine is crucial for helping your provider create a care plan. The laboratory staff responsible for these tests are on the first line of defense against diseases and other health concerns.

A challenging but worthy career

Medical laboratory technicians (MLT), medical technologists (MT), medical laboratory scientists (MLS), phlebotomists and pathologists are the professionals that make up the Tri-County Health Care laboratory team. Despite the importance of the MLT profession, there is a shortage of MLTs locally and across the United States. According to the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, the MLT workforce shortage is reaching a crisis level. An aging workforce, more demand for laboratory services, advancing laboratory technology, and a low number of MLT graduates each year contribute to the problem. Enrollment and graduation numbers are decreasing, and the workforce trend is not enough to keep up with demand. This career field typically requires an associate degree.

The lab department performs a wide variety of tests and supports hospital staff

Cindy Kube-Parks, Tri-County Health Care Medical Lab Technician

Putting the patient first

Though laboratory staff typically work behind the scenes, they do collect blood and samples from patients. They take special care to make sure patients know exactly what’s happening.

Cindy Kube-Parks, a Medical Lab Technician, has worked at Tri-County Health Care for almost 30 years. Cindy takes pride in her work and being able to give vital test results to providers. “I like the people and the customers we serve,” said Cindy when asked about her position in the laboratory.  She hopes the week-long observance will draw some much-needed attention to the profession.

Detecting COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on every sector of our country.  Laboratory staff are on the frontline fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous changes occurred to keep them protected when coming face to face with patients potentially infected with COVID-19.

When shadowing Cindy, she showed off the process of testing samples for COVID-19 on the Abbott ID Now instrument. Within 15 minutes, Cindy determined the results and entered them into the electronic medical record.  There are seven testing devices in the hospital laboratory, and the satellite laboratories each have two COVID-19 testing devices. The laboratory staff tests dozens of COVID-19 specimens daily.

Joyelle Hill, Laboratory Manager at Tri-County Health Care.

Joyelle Hill, Tri-County Health Care Laboratory Manager

COVID-19 has greatly impacted the laboratory with supply shortages.  Around the world, medical staff are suffering from a lack of resources.  Cindy and the rest of the team have made several concessions to continue providing top-tier diagnostic testing to the Tri-County Health Care system. Joyelle Hill, Laboratory Manager, commented on maintaining a high level of care under the worst possible circumstances. Joyelle praised her team for the great effort during this uncertain time.

The laboratory

Joyelle also stated just how lucky Tri-County Health Care is as an organization. The hospital lab is capable of a wide variety of testing and has some of the best and brightest laboratorians. “The laboratory staff members have become an extended family to me,” said Joyelle.

A health care system wouldn’t be possible without laboratory staff. According to Joyelle, the laboratory profession is not well known or understood. Doctors and nurses are often the ones seen but are not solely responsible for each diagnosis. Often it is a team effort requiring good science executed behind closed doors. “The laboratory department is an essential part of the healthcare system,” said Joyelle.

We need you!

Right now, there is a shortage of medical laboratory technicians. Due to vacancies, retirements and relocations, there is a need for four full-time laboratory technicians at Tri-County Health Care. Please visit our Careers page to review current vacancies. Follow Tri-County Health Care on social media for regular updates.


Happy Fourth of July!

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For those of you planning to celebrate this holiday weekend outside in the sun or on the lake, take a peek at some tips for staying safe while having fun.

Food

As families and friends gather, great food and goodies are bound to be included. But while you enjoy a leisurely day out in the sun and heat, be mindful of how long your food has been sitting out.Children at Fourth of July picnic

The Food and Drug Administration states that a good rule of thumb is not to let food sit out in the danger zone for more than two hours. The danger zone is the window between 40 and 140 degrees. Also, if the temperature outside is 90 degrees or hotter, never let food sit out longer than an hour. Failing to do so allows bacteria to multiply quickly and could cause foodborne illness.

Other food tips by the FDA:

  • Store cold food at or below 40 degrees; store hot food at or above 140 degrees
  • Pack meat, poultry and seafood while still frozen
  • Pack beverages and perishable food in separate coolers
  • Try to limit the number of times the cooler is opened
  • Keep raw foods separate from cooked or prepared foods
  • Place serving dishes of salads or desserts directly on ice

Sun

Lately, the days have been warm, and the sun has been strong (albeit with some rain here and there), so as you spend time outside, be sure to practice sun safety. The sun gives off harmful radiation called ultraviolet rays, and the longer you stay in the sun, the more susceptible you are to skin damage and to dangerous skin cancer.

Follow these tips to protect your skin:

  • Cover exposed skin with sunglasses, hats, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when possible.
  • Search out shady areas, and don’t spend too much time in direct sunlight. Remember that sand and water can reflect sunlight and increase UV radiation.
  • Use a waterproof broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. The higher, the better. Reapply it often if you spend a long day outside or in the water.
  • If your kids love exploring outside, keep a close eye on them and limit the time they spend in the sun. Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight. You can also promote safe habits by setting a positive example with your own actions.

A photo of a USA stars and stripes flag with sparklers in the foreground representing the 4th of July.

Fireworks

Fireworks are an Independence Day staple, a spectacular display that Americans across the nation use to celebrate. However, according to the National Fire Protection Association, they are not safe in the hands of consumers. Instead, it recommends that if you would like to see fireworks, you should attend a show coordinated by experts.

But if you are planning to set off your own fireworks, exercise extreme caution. The NFPA reports that fireworks cause nearly 18,500 fires each year, as well as thousands of injuries. Sparklers alone account for almost one-quarter of emergency room injuries caused by fireworks, as they are hot enough (1200 degrees) to inflict third-degree burns. Read all instructions carefully and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Finally, don’t forget to keep an eye on your little ones if you attend events where fireworks are used.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend!