Medical Technologists (MTs) and Med Lab Technicians (MLTs) work in a variety of specialties including microbiology, blood banking, clinical chemistry, molecular biology, and immunology. Over the past year, labs across the country have come together and stepped up to help our nation establish and identify opportunities for the best ways to handle an unknown virus—all through state-wide lockdowns, social-distancing and mask mandates.
Typical responsibilities of a lab professional include: Recording and analyzing data; collecting and preparing samples, conducting reports, and summarizing results from experiments, as well as offering technical support to other healthcare staff.
A Dramatic Shift in Daily Operations
When COVID-19 infiltrated the United States early 2020, medical laboratory professionals experienced an extreme shift to their daily operations. Adapting to the ever-changing coronavirus policies and CDC recommendations meant there were new expectations for how to properly handle samples, sterilize lab equipment, and even how and when it was necessary to administer COVID-19 tests. Many times, these policies were dictated by non-COVID working stakeholders.
Despite the challenges, Medical Lab Technicians and Med Techs across the country have played a key role in helping the nation navigate the pandemic. From synthesizing and administering on-the-spot rapid COVID-19 tests, to working directly with and next to the coronavirus, lab care, dedication, and selflessness shined through unprecedented times.
Challenges Lab Professionals Took in Stride
“Not being able to interact with patients and coworkers, was a big downfall many med lab workers and healthcare professionals experienced when the pandemic hit,” said Laurabeth Brock, an MLT traveler with LRS Healthcare.
“Being a traveler from the beginning of COVID to present date, I have been blessed to either have analyzers be in the process of validation for COVID antigen testing, or the facility having a surplus of them that they have just a ‘COVID testing team’,” she added.
However, MTs and MLTs communicate at a high level, and working 8-14 hour shifts in an N95 mask has made sharing pertinent information about a patient and their needs to another healthcare worker quite challenging. “You have to raise your voice to effectively communicate with your peers and this can cause hostility, and the lack of clarity can lead to confusion.
“We care just as much about patient care/safety as the common healthcare worker and we love being a part of the hospital community/family,” Brock said.
Through Today’s Lens
There have been a lot of positives that have come from evolving during a world-wide virus outbreak. As we continue to learn how to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and its variants through vaccines, the past year was nothing shy of tremendous growth for healthcare workers, especially med lab techs. They explored the unknowns, analyzed, learned how to address risks, and implemented solutions.
Thanks to the work done in the lab, behind the scenes, we now have faster ways to quickly identify and diagnose coronavirus infections, treat the illness, and are learning how we can prevent it going forward.
Brock said there are definite positive improvements that have come from all the chaos of the past year. “I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to play a role in providing people peace of mind with COVID-19 testing. There’s an overall better understanding of how important I am as a med lab tech in the diagnosis process, of not only covid-19 but also a large majority of all clinical decisions.”