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love a laboratorian

This is the week that is set aside every year to recognize the contributions of healthcare professionals who work in the laboratory setting. National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week is always the last week of April and consists of nationwide celebrations of who we are as clinicians. Most people think of the "lab" as the people who draw their blood. These folks...called phlebotomists, ARE the laboratory to patients. They collect blood samples using a variety of techniques ( sometimes including a heartfelt prayer to Big Ernie ) and transport the blood to the core lab for testing by various methods. The people who perform this testing are known collectively as "techs." While much of today's testing is automated, the clinical knowledge required to report valid test results will never be replaced by instrumentation. Chemistry tests that are now run by the push of a button were performed by chemical reactions in test tubes with boiling water and spectrophotometric readings back in the day when I first entered the field twenty eight years ago. Other areas of the laboratory are staffed by histotechnologists and cytotechnologists who prepare cell and tissue specimens for microscopic examination. The physician who oversees this whole conglomerate of body parts and fluids is called a pathologist. Shout out to Roxanne from Poopie: Happy Lab Week, girlfriend!
Being a small town girl, my career has weathered the storms that the healthcare industry has faced over the years. I distinctly remember going to an educational event back in the 80's where a new and dangerous virus was introduced to us....HIV became a household word shortly after that. Managed care, while providing incentive to decrease hospital length of stay and maximize efficiency of out-patient healthcare delivery, has placed new burdens on both providers and consumers alike. In my workplace I still use most every skill that I acquired through a multi-disciplinary education....hematology, chemistry, microbiology, serology, transfusion medicine and the computer knowledge required to transmit results to the proper patient care areas. At times it has been hairy and stressful, but always rewarding. I wouldn't change it for the world, even when the phone is ringing off the wall and there are people who don't have one.good.vein in their body. It's all part of the challenge that attracted me to the lab in the first place. Well, that plus the thrill of playing with poop and pee and other gross stuff all day long.

I have a confession to make. Of all the patients over the years with whom I have come in contact and shared a moment in time, the ones that I have felt the MOST sorry for are not the women in labor or children gettin' their throats swabbed or fingers pricked. It's those poor guys who have to bring their semen specimens in for a sperm count, hidden away in a paper sack deep within a coat pocket.

*snort* Sucks to be them.
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