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...

TRICARE Communications DAP Screensaver1 New Tool 2021

Infographic
4/2/2021
TRICARE Communications DAP Screensaver1 New Tool 2021

Screensaver introducing explaining the new DHA Appointing Portal.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | DHA Appointing Portal

Moderna and Pfizer

Infographic
4/2/2021
Moderna and Pfizer

Infographic of the timeline of the Pfizer vaccine and Moderna vaccine

Recommended Content:

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

COVID Vaccine Printable Pharmacy Insert

Publication
4/2/2021

An insert with links to learn more about vaccination options. Options include MTFs, state health departments, and local retail pharmacy. Graphics include medical personnel wearing masks on the bottom as well as the TRICARE logo.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Telemedicine advances put to the test during pandemic

Article
4/1/2021
Uniformed service member stands behind wall of computer screens

COVID-19 has led to the need for physical distancing and has overwhelmed the capacities of health systems, compelling many to adopt telehealth solutions.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Research and Innovation | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Health Innovation Toolkit

Lovell FHCC staff steps up to create formidable COVID-19 team

Article
3/30/2021
Military health personnel preparing to administer the COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccination effort at the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Illinois, has brought out the best in staff.

Recommended Content:

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

DOD healthcare leaders give COVID-19 update, praise DHA personnel

Article
3/30/2021
Picture of Director Army Lt. Gen. (Dr. Ronald Place providing a COVID-19 update at  the Pentagon

Dr. Terry Adirim and Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place provide update on COVID-19 vaccination progress and offer thanks to MHS workers for their contributions.

Recommended Content:

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

Dover Air Force Base features ‘Park ‘N Pickup’ pharmacy

Article
3/26/2021
Picture of prescription sitting on a counter

Due to the increased need for patient safety, the 436th Medical Group pharmacy at Dover Air Force Base has implemented a Park ‘N Pickup process.

Recommended Content:

MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Patient Safety

DHA Form 207: COVID-19 Vaccine Screening and Immunization Document, v20

Form/Template
3/25/2021

The purpose of this form is to determine if the COVID-19 vaccine can be administered to the patient. (v20, July 2022)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Information for Military Treatment Facility Directors

DHA COVID19 Medical Coding PolicyV5 1v

Policy

Establishes the DHA procedures to standardize the coding for Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) within military medical treatment facilities (MTFs). This memorandum replaces DHA-Policy Memorandum 20-003 of July 1, 2020. Attachment 1 was updated to include the 2021 procedure and diagnosis codes for COVID-19, including the new vaccination and treatment codes.

TAB A MEO COVID19 Medical Coding Policy

Policy

Memorandum for DHA Staff - Military Medical Treatment Facilities to Implement Updated DHA COVID-19 Medical Coding Policy

Eight nations participate in West African virtual pandemic exercise

Article
3/24/2021
Picture of military personnel wearing a face mask looking at a laptop computer

Medical experts from six African nations, the United Kingdom and the United States, participated in a Virtual Pandemic Preparation and Response Engagement exercise.

Recommended Content:

MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Global Health Engagement | Partners

Army dietitian uses nutritional care to fight COVID-19

Article
3/23/2021
Military personnel wearing a face mask standing in front of a Nutrition Clinic

Army dietician plays a critical role in COVID-19 patient recovery.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Department of Defense revises several Force Health Protection measures

Article
3/23/2021
Image of military personnel wearing face masks walking into an aircraft. Click to open a larger version of the image.

DOD reflects CDC following first set of public health recommendations for fully vaccinated personnel.

Recommended Content:

MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 Townhall, March 23, 2021

Video
3/22/2021
COVID-19 Townhall, March 23, 2021

Tune in for another COVID-19 vaccine update with Col. Jennifer Garrison, team lead for the DOD’s vaccine rollout.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

The COVID-19 pandemic, one year later in the DOD

Article
3/22/2021
A photo of a hospital ship

Timeline of events as the COVID-19 pandemic took over 2020.

Recommended Content:

MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine
<< < ... 16 17 18 19 20  ... > >> 
Showing results 226 - 240 Page 16 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.