The laboratory technologist is one of the seldom heard of or acknowledged of healthcare workers. In the hospital, the physicians, the nurses, even the custodial staff servicing the rooms; they are all seen and acknowledged for what they do. Yet the laboratory technicians, the ones who are entrusted with

accurately performing all the investigative components necessary to isolate and understand the status of a patient’s illness; they are rarely, if ever seen or heard of by the patient or public. They are hidden away in the clinical lab, the anatomic pathology lab, molecular biology, and various other areas of specialty, diligently performing their tasks. They do not do it to seek glory from the public; only to serve the patient and provide quality care though their training and profession. They are a vital and essential component of healthcare.

The new year of 2020 ushered in one of the most devastating medical crises in world history, the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic. Beyond the immediacy of treatment to those individuals who are in critical stages of the illness, the most important necessity is detecting the virus, and determining the extent of spreading and the hotspot areas of rapid growth of infection. Testing, testing, testing is the mantra that is heard and echoed repeatedly by the epidemiologist and other healthcare experts. The laboratory technologist has the responsibility of knowing, understanding, and performing the various testing procedures with error-free precision to give a verifiable result. They are accountable to the doctors to help them identify the virus, and they are accountable to the patient to assess their medical status and immediate treatment.

The second most important necessity of the lab technologist in this medical crisis is their role in the development of treatment therapies and vaccines. Pharmaceutical companies receive tremendous accolades and publicity from the mere mention and ‘hopeful’ projections/forecast of vaccines, long

before they are developed. Their assurance is based on the ongoing work of the laboratory technologists in the clinical lab developing the chemistry formulations of the drug trials. It relies on the animal laboratory technologists administering the drug trials to host animals and performing necropsies.

performing necropsies. It relies on the anatomic pathology laboratory technologists performing the tissue processing and micro-sectioning of tissue in slide preparation leading to pathology review. While corporate CEO’s, research coordinators, and drug development project managers, all receive commendations for the successful development of drug therapies, it is the unsung heroes of healthcare that are the backbone of success. Without their skill and professionalism, we would not have the medical advancements in chronic disease, cancer therapy, or vaccines for world-wide viral pandemics.

In closing, there has been much discussion about the stress and mental health effects of the Covid-19 virus on the front-line workers; the doctors, the nurses, etc. But consider the stress on the laboratory professionals who come to work every day committed to patient care. In spite of the overcrowding of hospitals and consumption of resources for the critically sick, emergent patient care (heart attack, stroke, urgent surgery) still continue. Hospital laboratory services are still maintained. Hospital laboratory technologists repeatedly go into a possibly infectious environment oftentimes with the added challenge of limited protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe, all while having to maintain intense focus in their performance of testing. Studies have 

shown that due to being their performance of testing. Studies have shown that due to being in the constant environment of Covid-19 response, either directly or indirectly, patient care and laboratory workers are over 50% more likely to suffer from mental health effects such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and general feelings of distress. Efforts need to be developed to address this within the staff and provide some form of attention, discussion, and care. The stress of these challenges can and oftentimes do lead to loss of focus and accuracy in job performance and testing, an inability to multi-task, and deteriorating mental health effects that can be carried over into personal life and families.

We end this 3-part series on “Enhancing Safety Amidst Covid-19 Crisis” with emphasizing that this series was created to focus on the enhanced protection of the laboratory professionals. This season of pandemic will be with us for an undetermined time. Our ‘new normal’ that must be observed during this time is optimal protection of our personal bodies, our workplaces, and our ability to mentally cope with the challenges. To all laboratory technologists, particularly those in the hospital environment; you are essential, necessary, and this war against disease could not be won without you.


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