My home state of Louisiana is no stranger to tough times. We know what to do when a hurricane comes. For some, it’s buying food, water and essential supplies to shelter in place, and for others, it means making plans to evacuate to higher grounds. Unfortunately, there is no clear guide for COVID-19. Thankfully, this unknown is where laboratory scientists like me thrive.
Medical laboratory professionals are the backbones of healthcare. Medical labs primarily process routine tests such as the complete blood count test and metabolic panel test. Labs also process highly complex tests, like the flow cytometry test, used to pinpoint potential signs of cancer cells, which take hours to complete by a trained human eye. The entire operation requires carefully engineered instrumentation, daily tracking of quality standards, regular audits by governing bodies to ensure test validity and safe environments and curious minds of medical lab teams.
Physicians and nurses depend on data produced by accurate testing in medical labs. This data informs medical teams to make proper diagnoses, provide timely treatment and consult on current or previous labs to compare changes over time.
We are the gatekeepers of quality since we know patient outcomes will largely be affected by the data we provide.
When the number of presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 rose in southeast Louisiana, the team of lab professionals at Ochsner Health rose to the challenge to increase our testing capacity. In particular, my team at Ochsner Medical Center – New Orleans quickly transformed the Molecular Microbiology Lab into a COVID-19 testing lab, churning out up to 1,400 tests per day.
This transformation required teamwork across internal and external parties. From physicians, lab staff, facility engineers, purchasing and top executives, Ochsner portrayed outstanding coordination to ensure our hospitals have more than enough testing capacity to meet the needs of the region. I am incredibly proud of what Ochsner has been able to do so rapidly without compromising quality.
It was a team effort all around, with every member of the Ochsner staff having a role to play in getting these tests implemented in-house.
With this testing capacity, Ochsner can test all patients and employees who walk through our hospital doors. While not everyone who catches the virus develops symptoms, they could still transmit it to someone more vulnerable, making the virus incredibly challenging to maintain. This is why testing, combined with practicing social distancing, is crucial to fighting the spread.
Our in-house testing also enables us to get results back in a matter of hours, not weeks, like some of the external testing labs we were previously using. As labs nationwide became inundated processing results, Ochsner Health brought the testing in-house to ensure we met the needs of our patients and community in the way they deserved, delivering results quickly to ensure we provide care quickly.
Because of our experiences with COVID-19, I’m glad to see that my community has a better appreciation for the impact lab professionals have on public health. The Ochsner lab team has risen above and beyond the call of duty, working around the clock to support our frontline staff fighting this dangerous virus. We still don't know enough about the novel coronavirus and there is plenty of work to do, but we are working hard with Ochsner’s research team, adding more testing and anxiously awaiting a safe vaccine.
The novel coronavirus is not the first virus we’ve had to fight and won’t be the last. This is how we put patients first: serving behind the scenes of every medical procedure, ensuring providers have the data they need to fight for your health, for all of us.
Join our team of Lab professionals at Ochsner Health. ochsner.org/careers