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VA Palo Alto Health Care System


VAPAHCS Celebrates Medical Lab Professionals

Nurse drawing blood from a patient's arm

A VAPAHCS nurse draws blood from a patient's arm.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Over 300,000 medical laboratory professionals around the country are celebrated for their life-saving contributions during the week of April 22-28, also known as National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week. Medical laboratory teams are the cornerstone of accurate diagnoses for patients and often work in the background of every health care team. At VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS), approximately 95 laboratory professionals provide services ranging from Point-of-Care Testing to Transfusion Services. In 2011 alone, the VAPAHCS medical lab team processed, routed, and resulted up to 2.9 million tests!

The most visible of the lab staff includes phlebotomists who work collect samples from inpatients and blood draw or specimen drop-off stations in each facility. Just at the Palo Alto Division Blood Draw Station alone, phlebotomists can process an average of 300 Veterans a day for testing. Point-of-Care Testing is done at the patient’s bedside, the most common of these tests being the finger stick glucose test done annually on the acute care unit. These tests are developed to be fail-safe in non-laboratory settings and are simple enough to be performed at home.

One of the more “sticky” aspects of the medical labs includes clinical chemistry where technicians test bodily fluids to measure enzymes, minerals levels, and hormone levels that may indicate disease or other body dysfunctions. Their extensive menu includes basic chemistry panels, lipid panels, pregnancy tests, drug screens, protein electrophoresis, and urinalysis. These tests account for more than half of all tests, with up to 1.9 million in 2011!

Transfusion Services (commonly known as the Blood Bank) consist of testing, preparation and the process of infusing or removing blood or blood components for therapeutic purposes. According to the American Red Cross, someone needs blood in the U.S. every two seconds and more than 38,000 blood donations are needed, every day! What is so special about blood? One unit of blood contains so many important components. Red blood cells carry oxygen, plasma provides water and protein, platelets promote blood clotting, and cryoprecipitate (say that five times fast) contains the proteins needed for blood clotting.

Whatever the setting - behind the scenes or out in your community - laboratory professionals are by your side, working as key members of your health care team. Please join these professionals in celebrating National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week and their vital role in promoting and protecting your health.


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