Story by Douglas Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs
‘Laboratory Professionals Get Results’ is this year’s theme as Naval Hospital Bremerton recognized the command’s Laboratory Department during Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, April 23-29, 2017.
Medical Laboratory Professionals Week is an annual acknowledgement of the behind-the-scenes work that ensures timely, correct diagnoses to improve patient outcomes.
“This is our chance every year to showcase our talent. I can’t say enough about our team. We thank everyone for all their hard work. This is a time for medical laboratory personnel to celebrate their professionalism and be recognized for their efforts,” said Lt. Michael J. Messick, Jr., Laboratory Manager.
There are 45 staff members assigned to the lab, comprised of naval officers, hospital corpsmen, federal employees, and civilian contractors. Enlisted personnel are comprised of advanced medical laboratory technicians, histopathology technicians, and cytology technicians assigned to NHB’s main lab, Branch Health Clinic Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, BHC Bangor, BHC Everett, and Madigan Army Medical Center Armed Services Blood Bank Center.
“Our profession is made up of various disciplines from the staff. We collect blood and process patient samples and have technicians and technologists who prepare and analyze patient samples. Our pathologists oversee our lab and provide skilled diagnosis for abnormal patient test results and examination of patient samples submitted for possible cancer evaluation,” Messick said.
The lab processed over 520,000 tests last year in-house with an additional 65,000 tests processed and sent to outside civilian and military reference labs. The routine lab testing performed includes complete blood counts, various chemistry tests, lipid screening, A1C, urinalysis, microbiology, and anatomic pathology which includes pap smears and tissue exams such as biopsies.
Perhaps the most visible of the lab operations involves supporting the quarterly blood drive held at NHB in conjunction with the aforementioned Madigan Army Medical Center Armed Services Blood Bank Center. Approximately 25 units of blood are collected for each blood drive.
“Another goal for this week is to inform and educate medical colleagues and the public about the medical laboratory and the impact our dedicated skilled professionals have on the overall patient care. Since lab techs often work behind the scenes, few people know much about the critical testing they perform every day. It is estimated that nearly 70 percent of clinical decisions are based on the results that the lab provides to a patient’s health care provider,” stated Messick.
“It’s true. Although we realize that most of the command doesn’t really know what goes on here behind the scenes, we know that most decisions are made on what we do. I’m very proud of our team,” added Lt. Cmdr. Elizabeth Fowler, NHB Pathologist and Laboratory Department head.
The list of specific responsibilities handled by the technicians includes performing tests in chemistry, hematology, urinalysis, coagulation, immunohematology (blood banking), serology, histology, and cytology; collating and verifying those test results and also certifying the authenticity for release to the health care providers.
“Our tests help the health care providers by providing results that can be used to evaluate a patient’s health and monitor any ongoing disease states,” Messick said.
“We couldn’t do our jobs in Urgent Care Clinic without the support from the lab,” added Cmdr. James Morris, NHB Urgent Care Clinic officer-in-charge.
Other areas of specialty include; phlebotomy (the act or practice of opening a vein by incision or puncture to remove blood as a therapeutic treatment); and microbiology (the branch of biology dealing with the structure, function, uses, and modes of existence of microscopic organisms); and pathology (the science or the study of the origin, nature, and clinical course of diseases).
“Our lab is the glue to our medical team. No patient-care decisions are made without the accurate results provided by our lab,” said Capt. Kim Zuzelski, NHB Executive Officer.
NHB’s Laboratory has also been fully accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP), American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). It is also licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The lab is open for outpatient lab collection Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.