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

Laboratory professionals play important role in fight against COVID-19

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:

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

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...

Policy on Accessions and Accessions Training during the COVID-19 Outbreak

Publication
4/3/2020

The Military Departments must seek ways to maximize accessions in a responsible manner to minimize a reduction in military end strength and the potential deterioration of mid-and long-term readiness and capacity.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Transition of Military Medical Treatment Facilities from Military Departments to the Defense Health Agency during the COVID-19 Response

Publication
4/2/2020

The Department's MTF transition plan is conditions-based. While the transition of MTFs to DHA is continuing, the COVID-19 response requirements are impacting DHA's ability to meet all required conditions. The need for the DHA and MILDEPs to refocus efforts away from the transition to support the COVID-19 response led to questions regarding the future of MTF Transition.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Military Health System Transformation

Pharmacy Guidance for Market MTFs

Publication
3/31/2020

Message to Pharmacy Beneficiaries regarding military pharmacy services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Pharmacy Division | TRICARE Health Program

Tiered Telehealth Health Care Support for COVID-19

Publication
3/31/2020

This memorandum establishes guidance for the use of Telehealth (TH) Information Technology (IT) tools in support of the clinical care required for patients across the spectrum of COVID-19 illness

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Public Health | Coronavirus

Policy Exception for Telehealth Use for ABA during COVID-19 Pandemic

Publication
3/30/2020

Communication to ABA Providers Regarding Temporary Authorization to Utilize Telehealth for CPT Code 97156 During the COVID-19 National Emergency

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | TRICARE Health Program

Q & A: Policy Exception for Telehealth Use for ABA during COVID-19 Pandemic

Publication
3/30/2020

Question and Answer: TRICARE Autism Care Demonstration (ACD): Regarding Temporary Authorization to Utilize Telehealth for CPT Code 97156 during the COVID-19 National Emergency

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | TRICARE Health Program

COVID-19 Life Support Training Extension

Publication
3/19/2020

The purpose of this memorandum is to set policy guidance within the Military Health System for American Red Cross life support training (First Aid/cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)/automated external defibrillator (AED), Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Life Support (ALS), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)).

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

3D Mammography Toolkit

Publication
12/19/2019

Recommended Content:

MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | TRICARE Health Program | Women's Health

3D Mammography Infographic 1

Publication
12/16/2019

Share this infographic to spread the word about 3-D Mammography coverage

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Women's Health | MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance

3D Mammography Infographic 2

Publication
12/16/2019

Share this infographic to spread the word about 3-D Mammography coverage

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Women's Health | MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance

Talking_Points_3D_Mammography

Publication
12/16/2019

These talking points share information about 3-D mammography

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Women's Health | MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance
<< < 1 2 3 4 5 > >> 
Showing results 61 - 71 Page 5 of 5

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.