Lab technicians handle blood work

Alisa Boswell

Editor’s note: This report is part of weekly series in March on the medical community.

Not just anyone can walk off the street and be a medical laboratory technician, according to Roosevelt General Hospital Lab Director Bobbi Lyons, who said a common misconception with people is that anyone can be a lab tech, because all they do is push a button.

Lyons said this could not be further from the truth. Lab technicians being required to have a college degree and national certification.

She said lab techs are clinical scientists, who regularly have to deal with chemistry and hematology (the study of the biology, chemistry, etc., of blood).

“That’s why we’re not good people persons,” she said, laughing. “We’re the scientists; we’re the nerdy people. If you think of us as mathematical nerds, that’s the most correct assumption that you could have.”

Lyons said blood tests can tell you what’s going on with a person’s vital organs, their blood and their body’s chemistry.

She said there are thousands of tests that can be run on a person’s blood, the most common being the comprehensive chemistry panel, which gives the doctor an overall view of the condition of a patient’s organs.

“Documentation is the name of the game. They (doctors) rely on our blood tests to confirm or deny a diagnosis,” Lyons said. “My premise has always been it’s better to not give a result at all then to give a result that is not correct, because the doctor bases what he might or might not do on those numbers.”

Lyons said with modern technology, blood tests are not as detailed for technicians as they used to be, but a lot of detail is still required with lab techs having to run calibrations and maintenance daily on machines, spin vials of blood and continuously run machines on three levels, depending on the type of test which is being run.

She said when she first started in the field 45 years ago, one comprehensive blood test might take three hours, but now, one takes about 30 minutes.

“Among all of us, we’ve got more than 100 years experience,” Lyons said of her RGH lab crew. “The people here are really dedicated and we’re all tied to the local community.”

Lab technicians Elaine Massey and Freddie Covero said they think of the lab crew as their family, because a majority of the time, they only see each other.

“I guess we’re really the ones in the basement,” Covero said, laughing.

“Part of it is the people we work with in the lab,” added Massey. “We’re good people and we work well together.”

Massey said her favorite part of her job is the microbiology.

“You get to grow and identify the bacteria and see what’s causing the patient’s infection,” Massey said. “I like solving the puzzles.”

All three lab techs said although they are mostly unknown due to being behind the scenes, their work is rewarding, because they know they are contributing to helping people.