National Laboratory Week, a time to recognize the vital role laboratory professionals play in health care, was celebrated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in April. Medical laboratories at LRMC perform more than 1.5 million tests each year for clinic patients. In addition, LRMC labs also provide testing services to 15 outlying military health care facilities, said Master Sgt. Daniel A. Santiago, a military laboratory technician and the NCOIC for Area Laboratory Compliance and Consultation Services.
The agency responsible for those tests is the Department of Pathology and Area Laboratory Services, which consists of six divisions: area laboratory compliance and consultation services, anatomic pathology, blood services, central operations, core lab, and infectious disease.
A dedicated staff of more than 140 phlebotomists (a qualified technician trained to draw blood), military and civilian technologists, laboratory officers and pathologists handle the massive workload. Much of the work is performed around the clock and out of sight of the rest of the hospital.
“We are happy to honor these unsung heroes of the hospital. They work around the clock to generate the critical results that count for our patients,” said Lt. Col. Ladd Tremaine, director for the Department of Pathology and Area Laboratory Services.
Some of the most important steps in lab testing begin within phlebotomy and central operations. The phlebotomy draws blood for inpatients and more than 100 outpatients each day. In 2010, central operations received and processed more than 120,000 samples from outlying clinics, 26,000 patient drop-off samples and 25,000 samples from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Central operations is the central hub for all LRMC lab samples,” said 1st Lt. Alan Vaughn, the officer in charge. “It also sends close to 2,500 specimens to reference labs each month.”
The infectious diseases lab works closely with clinicians to provide early diagnosis and optimum management of infectious diseases. It is home to what Maj. Thomas Palys, infectious disease OIC, describes as “the microbe sleuths who identify infectious agents in body fluids and tissues.”
Despite the advanced technology employed in microbiology, however, Major Palys said there is little automation used by LRMC lab technicians.
“Most of the work depends on the experience, the eyes and even the nose of the technologist,” he said.
Blood services is home to LRMC’s Blood Donor Center, the Blood Bank and Tissue Services. The donor center conducted more than 142 blood drives last year, which yielded approximately 5,100 units of blood and 279 units of platelets, while the blood bank processes these donations and provides blood to patients throughout LRMC supporting patients from Afghanistan and Iraq, and local military patients. In 2010, 2,500 blood products were transfused to LRMC patients, said blood services director Lt. Col. Robin Whitacre.
The core lab comprises hematology, chemistry, endocrinology, non-cellular immunology, urinalysis and coagulation labs. The core lab is highly automated with cutting-edge technology used to perform more than 1 million clinical tests annually.
Anatomic pathology consists of cytology and histology. Cytology prepares and screens more than 2,100 gynecological and non-gynecological slides monthly to rule out malignancies, while histology prepares, cuts and stains more than 150 surgical, cytology and autopsy tissue blocks daily for microscopic examination by eight surgical pathologists.
Area Laboratory Compliance and Consultation Services ensures safe and accurate patient laboratory testing and reporting of 19 Point-of-Care testing sites within LRMC by constantly monitoring and inspecting for compliance with joint commission standards. They are also a consulting and monitoring agency for all 15 Army laboratories within the Europe Regional Medical Command footprint.
“Working together with lab managers all across Europe has been a great experience for me and my staff,” said ALCCS Chief Maj. Jimmey Labit.
(Courtesy of LRMC Public Affairs)