Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Laboratory professionals play important role in fight against COVID-19

Image of Military health personnel wearing a face mask prepares COVID-19 test samples. 30th Medical Group Medical Lab Technician Air Force Staff Sgt. Cody Emery prepares a COVID-19 test sample for processing April 8 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California (Photo by: Michael Peterson, 30th Space Wing ).

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Medical Laboratory Professionals Week recognizes the behind-the-scenes work laboratorians do to generate clinical lab results and, ultimately, guide the courses of treatment for patients throughout the military and civilian health systems.

The week, April 18-24, holds special significance this year as labs throughout the Defense Health Agency have been a key contributor to the fight against COVID-19.

Within military medicine, the laboratory community consists of officers, who serve as lab managers, technicians, who are doing the actual testing and reporting or "lab work," and civilians, who do everything from sample collection to management.

"My mission as a lab officer, and the mission of the lab community as a whole, is to ensure timely and accurate reporting of results," said Lt. Col. Paul Nelson, chief of the Air Force Medical Service COVID Lab Team at the Air Force Medical Readiness Agency, located at DHA headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia. "Our job is to take the samples, run tests and get the results back out in a timely manner, and those results have to be accurate. That encompasses everyone who works in the laboratory."

Nelson explained that the pandemic hasn't changed the overall job description of the lab technician or the steps that are followed to obtain accurate results, but it has most definitely changed what they are testing for and their ability to test for it.

"What happened at the beginning of the pandemic is that COVID testing became priority No. 1," Nelson said. "We went from having absolutely zero COVID testing capacity to being able to provide roughly 200,000 tests a week if we needed to."

Getting to this point required a lot of work behind the scenes, Nelson said, including acquiring testing machines, training technicians how to use them, learning how to correctly take and store samples, and quickly and correctly reporting results.

Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Aramatou Toure, Navy Clinical Laboratory Improvement Program manager at the Center for Laboratory Medicine Service, also located at DHA headquarters, said the amount of work has also increased.

"I would say our workload has almost tripled here," said Toure. "The Clinical Laboratory Improvement program deals with certifying new sites for testing. Since COVID began we've obviously had an increase in labs that needed to be able to test for it."

Nelson noted Medical Laboratory Professionals Week provides much-needed recognition for the laboratory community, especially this year.

"The highlight this year is "laboratorians get results," and honestly that's what it all boils down to - we have the job of providing accurate and timely results so that medical decisions can be made," Nelson said. "Without the lab, you don't have the diagnoses. You don't have, "this person is positive for COVID and therefore they need medical intervention."

Toure agreed.

"This time around, it has an extra importance," said Toure. "Lab techs have been working around the clock during this pandemic to meet the testing requirements and accomplish the mission, and we've done it and are still doing it."

The spotlight has been on COVID-19 the past year. The work that medical labs do in the discovery and subsequent treatment of other conditions, however, shouldn't be overshadowed.

"Without the lab, you also don't get the cancer diagnosis or any other medical condition you can think of that has laboratory testing as part of the workup," Nelson said.

Although the past year has challenging, the opportunity that the lab community has been given to make a difference has made it worth it, according to Nelson.

"What we do is very challenging in normal times and COVID has stressed us, but also allowed us to rise to the occasion and do what needed to be done for our patients and for the country," Nelson said.

And, he noted, the lab community is beginning to focus on the future with an eye on the immediate past.

"As we've gotten the enterprise healthy and gotten to a place where we've been able to come up with standard guidance, we're already in planning mode for the next pandemic - what worked, what didn't work - and we want to have those plans in place and ready to go at a moment's notice," Nelson said.

Manning is central to being ready for what could potentially come next.

"We need enough lab techs and enough lab officers to handle the workload," Nelson said. "If you don't have the people, you can't do the testing."

Another key element to readiness is the rapid adaptation of new technology, he said.

"From manning to training to the machines used for testing and making sure we have the correct personal protective equipment - any of these can be a limiting factor," said Nelson. "Now we have an idea of where we need to be and how rapidly we can go from zero to 200,000."

Nelson emphasized that, as simple as it may seem, without laboratories and lab personnel, there would be no way to identify issues and determine what actions need to be taken.

"That sample that a lab tech is generating is somebody's result, and that result means something to that patient," said Nelson. "That patient could be you, your mother, your brother, or your best friend, and you want assurances that that lab result is the highest quality result it can possibly be. That only happens when that lab tech is there and has the training, standards of care, processes, and equipment and supplies in order to do that testing."

You also may be interested in...

COVID-19 Vaccines Safety Monitoring

Infographic
6/9/2021
COVID-19 Vaccines Safety Monitoring

Graphic that assures beneficiaries that the COVID-19 vaccines are monitored for safety. Has information on how they are being reviewed. Graphics include doctors in a laboratory and a doctor with a shield fending off the virus.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines

Infographic
6/9/2021
Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines

This graphic that assures beneficiaries that the vaccines will not give you the virus, does not affect our DNA, and is safe. Graphics include a person receiving the vaccine and a comparison graphic of COVID-19 trials versus other trials.

Recommended Content:

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines (Combined)

Publication
6/9/2021

The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines were developed to prevent infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Learn about the vaccines, how they work and safety precautions.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Facemask Required

Infographic
6/4/2021
Facemask Required

While the CDC relaxed mask requirements for vaccinated people, you're still required to wear masks in health care settings. Print this poster and put it around your facility to let patients and visitors know the requirements.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Prevent COVID-19

Army’s 773rd administers mobile COVID-19 testing during DEF21

Article
6/4/2021
Three military personnel, wearing masks and lab coats, pose for a picture in an Albanian lab.

Approximately 800 Army Reserve soldiers from the U.S. and Europe participated in DEFENDER-Europe 21.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Readiness Capabilities

Mental Health Panel Discusses Impact of COVID-19

Article
6/3/2021
Military personnel wearing face mask speaking on a panel

Walter Reed Bethesda hosts mental health panel to discuss the impacts of COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | | Psychological Fitness

Based on data, MHS experts encourage vaccines for adolescents

Article
6/1/2021
Sister and brother smiling at each other

With the Pfizer vaccine approved for youth ages 12 to 15, MHS adolescents are lining up to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Children's Health

Are mRNA vaccines safe?

Video
5/28/2021
Are mRNA vaccines safe?

Dr. LC Collins explains the years of research and ongoing monitoring to show how mRNA vaccines are safe and effective.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vax Facts | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

VAX Facts: Breastfeeding after the COVID-19 Vaccine

Video
5/28/2021
VAX Facts: Breastfeeding after the COVID-19 Vaccine

Dr. LC Collins encourages people who are breastfeeding to get the vaccine. Since the vaccine doesn't contain live virus, you can't pass COVID to your baby.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vax Facts | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

What is an mRNA vaccine?

Video
5/28/2021
What is an mRNA vaccine?

Dr. LC Collins explains how mRNA vaccines work to protect you from COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vax Facts | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

VAX Facts: Do I Need the Vaccine if I Had COVID?

Video
5/28/2021
VAX Facts: Do I Need the Vaccine if I Had COVID?

Dr. LC Collins talks about the importance of getting vaccinated even if you already had COVID. We're not sure how long natural immunity lasts, so getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vax Facts | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

VAX Facts: Which Vaccine is Right for Me?

Video
5/28/2021
VAX Facts: Which Vaccine is Right for Me?

Dr. LC Collins talks about the importance of getting the first vaccine available to you. Don't hold out for a certain brand; they're all safe and effective.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vax Facts | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

“Shots in arms” – OPT planned & coordinated to meet COVID-19 mission

Article
5/28/2021
Military personnel sitting around a table talking

The Department of Defense’s COVID-19 Operational Planning Team has been the quiet force behind the DOD’s vaccination effort since November.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

COVID-19 Vaccination Card Second Shot

Infographic
5/27/2021
COVID-19 Vaccination Card Second Shot

Keep track of your vaccination card. Tips include keeping your card on you and taking a picture of it as a backup copy.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Adolescents ages 12 and older eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations

Article
5/27/2021
Son of military personnel receiving his COVID-19 vaccine

Pfizer vaccine now authorized for children 12 and older.

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 10  ... > >> 
Showing results 136 - 150 Page 10 of 34
Refine your search
Last Updated: January 14, 2022

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.