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Recognizing Medical Laboratory Professionals and Their Critical Role on the Healthcare Team

The patient's diagnosis and treatment are related to the test results generated by the professionals working in the laboratory. Let us celebrate their knowledge, skill, and expertise, providing measurable data to prove the diagnosis and treatment.

By Kathy L. Sutton, MT(AMT), MLS(ASCP)

 

What a year 2020 was for health care! And the remarkable changes continue into 2021.This year, let's celebrate medical laboratory professionals and bring the public’s perception of them into the limelight, especially during Medical Laboratory Professionals Recognition Week: the annual celebration of the vial role lab professionals play in health care.

Despite the new spotlight on the lab with the explosive growth of COVID-19 testing, very few people understand the unique combination of knowledge and skills of those who work in the medical laboratory.

Accurate Results

Day in and day out, year after year, the laboratory scientist confirms the correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment with accurate test results for the patient, but not even everyone on the health care team knows how those results come about.

The principles of laboratory tests are not part of the curriculum of medical school or nursing programs. After completing their specialized education, laboratory professionals further their competencies through both formal learning years of practice. Personal qualities that good laboratorians bring is attention to detail and adherence to standardized practice, which results in accurate test results.

To an outsider looking into the lab, one might think –simply press here, and results appear. Anyone can place a specimen on an instrument, press a button, and the results magically print, right?

Laboratory Confidences

In reality, there are laboratory confidences behind the scenes, known only by the laboratory scientists working there. Error in test results is minimized through  complex quality management processes. and the standard operating procedures. Otherwise,  the results may not reflect the patient's actual clinical condition, thus resulting in poor healthcare outcomes.

Laboratory quality management processes are followed from the time the specimen is collected through the reporting of results. “Pre-analytical” errors refers to inappropriate performance, such as improper sample collection, transport delays, or illegible handwriting on the requisition. “Analytical” errors and increased data variability may result from instrument malfunctions, inability to follow proper procedures, undetected quality control failures, sample misidentification, and test interference. The “post-analytical” phase is the final phase of the total testing process and involves evaluating laboratory test results. release of test results promptly to appropriate individuals--particularly critical test results,and modification, annotation, or revocation of test results necessary to support clinical health care.

Additional  quality management processes, including running quality control, performing proficiency testing, validating, and verifying tests are all conducted by meticulous laboratory professionals

Correct Diagnosis

The laboratory professional's expertise is essential for the patient to receive the correct diagnosis and treatment. All tests with the same name are not necessarily the same. For example, just to test for COVID-19 there are RT-PCR, ELISA, antigen tests, antibody tests, and monoclonal antibody tests. Each test measures different analyteswith different methods for each analyte.

Further, each method has different levels of accuracy, precision, sensitivity, and specificity. 

Times are Changing

Lab technology continually adapts to new instrumentation as well as emerging diseases emerging. The image people have of laboratory professionals in 2021 should be of a highly skilled and knowledgeable professional crucial to the care and well-being of patients who do not actually see them at work..

Let’s spread the word and show that laboratory professionals have a critical role on the health care team. Show support and gratitude for the hard work laboratory professionals do.

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