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Department Spotlight 22 April 2020

Revamping Routine

By Breann Lujan-Halcon

League of Lab Professionals: Getting Results

For laboratory workers in a pandemic, flexibility is everything. In a field that is shaped by rules, regulations and fine-tuned processes, coronavirus has thrown normal” out the window, and the only thing that is certain is that more change is coming. 

How much change has COVID-19 brought to the lab at Ivinson? According to Laboratory Manager Danica Hebert, a ton!

Part of it is simply how to process specimens. Due to COVID, more specimens have to be processed in a different manner than our standards so we have to have more PPE or additional processing modules. We are having to work out of the [fume] hood more than we ever would.”

The hood” is a ventilation system designed to limit exposure to hazardous or toxic fumes through its air pressure filtration system. 

We don’t necessarily process all of our specimens under that because it is not needed, COVID has changed some of that.”

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COVID-19 has also changed phlebotomy procedures, PPE usage and standard workflows.

In an effort to limit exposure, team members are taking on tasks that would normally be dispersed to multiple lab professionals. Inpatient and outpatient phlebotomist are working separately which has caused less rotation among staff. Team members have had additional training on the increase of PPE they are required to wear. Lab tables are lined with brown paper bags labeled with names for each team member’s N95 mask that they are reusing and face shields hang in a similar fashion in a separate room.

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There is a lot of rapid change, whether it’s face shields and masks, the hood, gloves, limiting interactions or keeping track of possible patients. Like nurses, our care doesn’t end with one component, we have to track it over the whole time until we get the results back.”

While business as usual” would be an understatement, the lab at Ivinson remains fully functional despite deferring routine labs.

We are still seeing all the outpatients for any kind of medication refills, urgent clinic visits, medication monitoring like Coumadin patients, a lot of whom we see weekly. We are seeing some of the Cancer Center patients that we wouldn’t normally because they are not actively on chemo. They are sending them to us so they don’t comingle with patients who are on chemotherapy. We are actually picking up some extra patients from different areas while making sure we have everything set for their safety but then for our staffs’ safety as well.”

Danica credits her staff for rolling with the many changes coming to the lab and doing so with ease. 

People are seeing more of what lab does and learning more about this kind of work. Our team does so much work all the time and people don’t always understand what we’re doing back here in the unseen part of the hospital.”