When you go to your health care provider for a routine blood test, they may tell you that they are sending your blood to the lab for testing. You may have heard the same thing if you’ve ever had a biopsy. But what if there was no laboratory?
Without a clinical laboratory, illnesses, diseases, cancers and other diagnoses may never be confirmed. Your provider may suspect a disease or condition based on your medical history and symptoms, but in many cases a lab test is what will verify their suspicion and diagnosis.
Your health care provider and clinical laboratory professionals work hand in hand to diagnose your condition so your provider can find the best treatment plan for you.
“Seventy to 80 percent of clinical decisions are based on laboratory tests,” said Mark Berry, laboratory manager at Iredell Health System.
Although you may never meet the laboratory professionals who work behind the scenes to analyze and examine your test samples, the role they play in your diagnosis is critical.
During Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, April 24-30, it’s important to recognize the work of these exceptional people and understand the crucial impact they have on your health.
Iredell Health System Laboratory
Iredell Health System’s clinical laboratory offers a wide range of laboratory procedures that help providers diagnose and treat their patients’ conditions.
Every day, an average of 800 to 900 samples – blood, fluid, culture and tissue samples – arrive at the Iredell laboratory for testing. Each of these lab tests was ordered by an authorized provider or caregiver based on the patient’s condition or illness.
Once the collector has positively identified the patient, blood, urine, culture and tissue samples are taken from the patient. The collector may be a physician, nurse, phlebotomist, medical assistant, or caregiver, who labels the specimen with the patient’s full name and date of birth, date, time, and initials. The specimen is then sent to the laboratory for analysis.
“The analysis of the test itself does not take much time. From the time the sample is taken, most routine lab tests are done in less than an hour. Some tests can be done in less than 30 minutes while others, such as microbiological cultures and pathology tests, can take 12 to 48 hours,” Berry said.
All tests ordered on the patient sample are processed through the hospital’s electronic medical records and laboratory information system for compliance, accuracy, and to obtain any information necessary to contact the patient’s caregiver regarding the results.
According to Berry, some of the most common tests the lab sees are complete blood counts (CBC) and urinalysis.
Over the past two years, COVID-19 testing has also become commonplace in the Iredell lab. In 2021 alone, Iredell’s lab processed 23,811 COVID antigen tests (rapid tests) and 6,045 PCR tests.
In order to process this large amount of tests in a timely manner, the Iredell Health System laboratory has a hardworking team of approximately 60 members. These employees are medical technologists, medical technicians, pathologists, histologists, cytotechnicians, phlebotomists, pathology medical assistants, laboratory clerks, and laboratory assistants – all of whom are essential to the day-to-day running of the laboratory.
“Our laboratory has several long-standing and very experienced employees. We have employees who have worked within the lab for over 40 years,” Berry said.
The lab also recently welcomed a new addition to its team, Dr. Asha Sigei, Chief Pathologist and Medical Director of the lab.
In order to provide quality patient care, the inpatient laboratory is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Iredell Health System also offers outpatient laboratory services throughout the week.
Iredell’s laboratory is the only College of American Pathologist accredited hospital laboratory in Iredell County and has maintained its accreditation for 42 years.
“Although most patients, or even hospital staff, do not see the inner workings of the clinical laboratory, we strive to provide the highest quality diagnostic services to our patients and healthcare providers. I am proud to have such a great and dedicated team to work with at Iredell Health System,” said Berry.