The often-overlooked healthcare professionals behind 70% of clinical decisions

Medical Laboratory Professionals Week showcases a key component to care

By Medline Newsroom Staff | April 19, 2021

According to the CDC, 70% of medical decisions depend on laboratory test results. Essential work by laboratorians and technicians that often goes unknown or overlooked.

With Medical Laboratory Professionals Week running April 18-24, the Works of Heart of Labs professionals, the evolving role of labs and its growing significance in the wider ecosystem of care deserves to be in the spotlight.

Growing partnership with clinician peers
While lab workers have traditionally been somewhat disconnected from the rest of the hospital, there’s a growing awareness and respect within healthcare for the vital role labs play.

“When I worked as a tech 20 years ago, labs were truly an unheralded part of the system,” says Scott Gawlak, lab specialist at Medline. “In the last five to seven years, there’s been a shift to looking at laboratorians as integral partners in the process of properly diagnosing, communicating with and treating the patient. Doctor and nurses are starting to recognize and appreciate all the work that goes on ‘behind the curtain.’”

More than just bloodwork
While recognition for the work labs do is growing within the health system, there’s still a lot of misconceptions among patients. Since the labs are often tucked away out of sight, their work can seem nebulous compared to frontline clinicians. Many patients may associate labs with the pain of getting blood drawn for lab testing, so there’s still some room for improvement when it comes to educating patients as to how labs fit into, and support, the larger health system. For example, besides running bloodwork, these days lab workers could be running complex genetic testing in search of bacteria or viruses like COVID-19, or training nursing staff on lab equipment in patients’ rooms, all depending on their certifications and the needs of the hospital on that particular day.

Tech-savvy and in-demand
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has challenged every aspect of healthcare, including labs. Most labs are being tasked with high workloads and are running more complex tests, including genomic testing. While technological advances have allowed labs to run with smaller staffs, the skills required for the job keep increasing, which narrows the pipeline of talent. This need for additional technical capacities is reflected in a recent survey of medical laboratories that found accreditation and certification requirements at labs were increasing.1 Hospitals must support the essential work labs do by working to both retain current staff while recruiting and training the next generation of laboratory professionals.

No more “lone wolf”
Many hospitals suffered financially in 2020 without the normal stream of elective surgeries. Strategic partnerships, whether internally between departments, or externally with distributors and vendors, are more important than ever. In the past, lab managers could exist as “lone wolfs” when it came to purchasing and planning, but now the financial crunch means that departments have needed to align more closely than ever to ensure optimal workflow and efficient use of spend. As a result, purchasing departments are increasingly consolidate decision making and ordering between medical/surgical departments and laboratories in order to maximize savings.

A sincere thank you
“Everyone at Medline would like to sincerely thank all the laboratorians and technicians ‘on the bench’ for all their hard work,” says Nancy Fuller, lab specialist at Medline. “The world of healthcare could not function without their considerable expertise and their dedication to the patients they serve.”

To learn how Medline works with Labs to bridge to better, visit Medline Lab Capabilities.

  1. “2018 vacancy survey of medical laboratories in the United States.” The American Society for Clinical Pathology. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcp/aqz046
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Medline Newsroom Staff

Medline Newsroom Staff

Medline's newsroom staff researches and reports on the latest news and trends in healthcare.

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