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Tyrone Hospital celebrates National Lab Week, announces technology upgrades in lab

New equipment Pictured is Michelle Dillon, MLT of the Tyrone Hospital laboratory, with the hospital’s new hematology analyzer. The hematology analyzer performs common and routine blood analysis. Tyrone Hospital’s laboratory performs more than 100,000 lab tests annually including different types of analysis of both body fluids and body tissues. (Courtesy photo)

If you visit your doctor because you are sick or because you just need a routine check-up, chances are your doctor will order some type of laboratory test.
Laboratory tests unlock important medical information that is pivotal to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. Specially trained laboratory professionals perform tests on body fluids and body tissues, interpret the results, and help provide doctor’s with a complete picture of a patient’s health.
To celebrate the contribution of the healthcare professionals that work in laboratories, the week of April 20-26 is designated National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (NMLPW).
Laboratory professionals use modern biomedical equipment and complicated analysis, to detect the presence of cancer, identify infectious viruses and bacteria, and measure glucose, cholesterol, or drug levels in blood. Without this precise and valuable information, medicine would simply become guesswork.
At Tyrone Hospital the laboratory processes approximately 100,000 tests each year. Technology plays a big role in the analysis and reporting of laboratory tests and contributes to operational efficiency as well.
Over the past several months, Tyrone Hospital has upgraded its laboratory technology which included installation of a Laboratory Information System (LIS) and a new hematology analyzer.
The hematology analyzer performs common and routine blood analysis. Vicki Dugan, MT, Director of Tyrone Hospital’s laboratory, said the new analyzer performs complete blood counts including white blood cell count, red blood cell count, platelets, hemoglobin, and hematocrit. The updated analyzer produces a 5-part white blood cell differential as opposed to the previous analyzer, which only read 3-part. Readings are displayed on a computer screen that is connected to the analyzer.
Dugan said the new analyzer also has an oncology setting. It has certain parameters that help the technicians to identify cancer cells.
The LIS allows the lab to integrate results reports from all areas of the lab, including microbiology, chemistry, and hematology areas into one system and then dispatch those reports automatically to physicians. Depending on physician preference, the reports are printed or sent directly to their fax machine.
“It allows us to dispatch the test results to physicians more quickly as compared to sending a hard copy through the mail,” said Dugan. “We can also program the system to dispatch the reports at whatever specific time of day the doctor wishes to receive them.”
The LIS also creates a paperless ordering system within the hospital. Dugan said nurses caring for inpatients can send physician orders to the lab electronically. When the tests are completed, the results are printed directly to the nursing unit through electronic transmission.
“We are very proud of our laboratory staff,” said Dugan. “They have to be painstakingly meticulous in performing their jobs to provide dependable answers to physicians.”
Dugan said the staff at Tyrone Hospital also wanted to use Lab Week as an opportunity to call attention to the career opportunities for those interested in becoming a laboratory professional and the current shortage of individuals with these special skills.
Despite the important roles laboratory professionals play, and increasing demands for laboratory services, the profession is undergoing stress.
In a recent survey of laboratory wages and vacancies, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) reported that nearly 44 percent of laboratories report they are currently experiencing difficulties recruiting or hiring medical laboratory personnel. There are several reasons for this phenomenon including rising retirement numbers among laboratory technicians, fewer schools of laboratory technology and the concomitant decrease in the number of graduates.
With that in mind, laboratory organizations, including professional societies such as the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and even laboratory equipment manufacturers, are mounting active campaigns to recruit students to the profession.
Locally, the Tyrone Area High School offers a Health Occupations Technology Program and other programs at the school to give students an opportunity to learn more about health care careers, including laboratory careers. The school also works with Tyrone Hospital and other local health providers to give students exposure in an actual health care setting. These students may choose to spend time at Tyrone’s laboratory to investigate these professions.
Medical laboratory professionals represent a variety of specialties, including pathologists (specialized physicians), medical technologists, clinical laboratory scientists, medical laboratory technicians, histotechnologists, histologic technicians, cytotechnologists, cytopathologists, phlebotomy technicians, clinical chemists, microbiologists, laboratory managers, and medical educators.
These professionals can be found in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, research facilities, blood banks, public health centers, the Armed Forces, universities, and industry. Within the laboratory, these highly educated and experienced medical laboratory professionals may work in chemistry, serology, hematology, cytology, microbiology, immunology, coagulation, histology, urinalysis, molecular biology, or the blood bank.
For more information about Tyrone Hospital’s laboratory services contact Dugan at 684-1255 extension 1533.