National Medical Laboratory Week

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Photos by Ryan Wilson, IWK

Medical laboratory professionals work around the clock to provide accurate and timely results vital to medical decisions. April 11 to 17 is National Medical Laboratory Week, a chance to recognize the role the lab plays in health care.

We are taking this opportunity to highlight some of the medical lab professionals working at the IWK.

Terri-Lynn Lent

Terri-Lynn Lent is a Medical Laboratory Technologist in Microbiology.

Medical Laboratory Technologists complete laboratory testing to assist in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases. Specific to Microbiology they culture, identify and determine antibiotic sensitivities of microorganisms; using traditional and molecular methods.

“Being able to serve such a special population like we have at the IWK has been incredibly rewarding,” says Lent. “Our lab is smaller, so we have the unique ability of getting to know our patients, and their families, so their samples aren’t just one of hundreds on an accession line. We care about ensuring they receive accurate and appropriate results; as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Cathy McAuley

Cathy McAuley is a Quality Specialist/Medical Laboratory Technologist II for Transfusion Medicine (aka Blood Bank).

Technologists and lab assistants are frequently seen on the floors and in clinics, obtaining blood samples. Samples are then taken to the lab where they are analyzed and results reported back to physicians.

“We may not have met the patient, but we know that the results we see and report can change a person’s life,” says McAuley. “We know our phone calls to physicians can bring pain or joy to others. You don’t always see us but we’re here 24 hours a day.  We see the good and the bad. What we do enables the rest of the health care team to best treat the patient. And that’s what counts.”

Angela Pettipas

Angela Pettipas is a Medical Laboratory Technologist in the role of Point of Care Coordinator.

Point of care coordinators take inventory of reagents and supplies, validate new tests and instruments, and train and document training and competency of testing personnel on procedures written for each instrument.

“As the health care system continues to grow, there is an increasing demand for quicker turnaround times and with that comes point of care testing,” says Pettipas. “Our most recent implementation, Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 testing, was implemented in a few short weeks. In my 19 years at the IWK I have seen many changes in the workplace but the one thing that always remains the same is the amount of teamwork and passion for patient care.”

Dr. Lori Beach

Dr. Lori Beach is a Clinical Biochemist and Division Head for Chemistry/Special Chemistry in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Clinical biochemists are responsible for oversight, interpretation, and reporting of clinical chemistry testing (i.e. the chemicals in biological fluids like blood sugar or a pregnancy hormone).  This involves providing a high quality and collaborative consultative service: adapting to the needs of clinical teams to develop new testing to match clinical needs, aligning practice with best evidence, and finding the best solutions for timely testing either in the laboratory or at the point of care.  Beach also works to bring the laboratory needs of pediatric and maternal patients across NSHealth into focus for provincial projects.

“It’s easy to forget that behind the numbers that your physician uses to understand your health, there is a whole team of dedicated people ensuring those values are useful and of best quality,” says Beach. “I am so glad to work where I can connect with different clinical areas and be both part of strategies that promote and protect the health of all who access IWK Health, as well as be involved in those challenging situations where we can make a real difference to the health journey of one individual.”

Amber Crouse

Amber Crouse is Pathologists’ Assistant & Team Lead of Anatomical Pathology.

Pathologists’ assistants handle the tissue specimens received from the operating rooms, clinics and the birth unit by examining them, and getting them ready to eventually place them on a glass slide and stain them. The pathologist then looks at it under a microscope to make a diagnosis for a patient. Crouse also handles routine specimens, such as, tonsils, appendix, women’s health tissues and more complex specimens like tumors.

“We don’t get to meet our patient’s face to face, but over time you do get to know them through their medical history and the surgical specimens you receive after their surgeries,” says Crouse. “It’s always exciting to hear of a baby that had been in the NICU with multiple surgeries, eventually get to go home to their families. There is often a linkage of the baby to the mother’s specimens so it is often family care.  It is great when you hear of a child who you helped diagnose with a malignancy, has gone through treatment and is now cancer free.”

Brianna Blair

Brienna Blair is a Medical Laboratory Assistant working in Core lab.

Medical laboratory assistant are responsible for both collecting blood samples and the subsequent processing and handling of the specimens on a 24/7 basis. MLAs ensure the specimen ends up at the right place for the right testing. The details are extremely important along the journey from the collection of a sample to receiving a result. Factors such as temperature, time, additives etc. can lead to compromised specimen and MLAs strive for quality specimens so patients have quality results. MLAs also work in Pathology, Microbiology, and Clinical Genomics and are a part of the Newborn Screening team.

“The part I enjoy the most about working as an MLA at the IWK is the opportunity to see our patients throughout their treatment regimen,” says Blair. ” We have many patients that have been coming to the hospital since they were newborns and are now in their late teens. Seeing a sick child as an inpatient with daily bloodwork become a healthy and thriving child who we see on occasion at our outpatient lab, is one of the best parts of my job.  We are often a patient’s first experience with bloodwork, which can be scary and intimidating, and we have the responsibility to create a positive experience for the patient and their families.