Hospital lab provides vital information

Published 12:25 am Saturday, May 15, 2010

Almost everyone has had a medical test, either to take part in school sports, from a visit to the emergency room or as part of a visit to the doctor. They see the nurse take blood, and a short time later, the results come back.

What a lot of people don’t know is where the test sample goes and who works on it. That work happens in the laboratory of Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital.

The lab has up-to-date equipment, using microscopes, centrifuges and other equipment to help doctors find out what the medical problem is and how to treat it.

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“We can grow bacteria here in our lab from what is taken from a patient’s blood,” said laboratory director Debbie Green. “Once the bacteria is identified, that helps the doctor determine how to treat it.”

The primary responsibility of the lab professional is to provide accurate results to the physician or health care provider. Lab technologists and technicians not only have to be knowledgeable in what they do, but also have great critical thinking skill and the ability to make decisive judgments.

The lab covers several medical sciences, including chemistry, serology, hematology, microbiology, coagulation and urinalysis. It also contains a blood bank, storing whole blood and plasma for emergency use.

“We have 19 people working in the lab,” said Green, who has been with the lab since 1976. “We all work well together, and we enjoy our work. It is very interesting and, really, fulfilling to play such an important part in patient care.”

The laboratory performs about 360,000 tests in-house each year. Outpatient services makes up about 50 percent of that, with the rest coming from the Cancer Care Center, home health agencies, hospices, physicians’ offices and drug screen testing and collections.

“The phlebotomist is the core of our laboratory,” Green said, “but we are all one big team, working for the hospital, the doctors and, especially, the patients, I appreciate the skill and dedication of my staff, and I am very proud of the way they work together.”

The next time you give a blood sample or another medical sample is taken, remember that is on its way to the hospital’s lab, where it goes through several tests before coming back with an accurate identification to provide a means of treatment.