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Feature | June 27, 2017

Lab techs: Vital role in medical readiness

By Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

While interaction with bodily fluids is not for the squeamish or light hearted, the individuals who work as medical laboratory technicians are no strangers to handling needles and blood samples at Joint Base Langley-Eustis’ medical facilities.

The lab technicians at the U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley and McDonald Army Health Center play a vital role in the overall readiness and deployability of members across JBLE, as they perform over a million tests annually.

According to U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Carey Morris, 633rd Medical Support Squadron laboratory quality assurance manager, these laboratory technicians use their skills to perform laboratory tests on blood, urine and other bodily fluid samples, providing evidence for medical professionals to determine proper treatment measures are taken for U.S. service members, retirees and dependents.

 “Lab techs are sort-of the core of medical treatment,” said Morris. “A lot of diagnoses and treatments depend on what the lab results are, so it’s crucial that we are always on our game and checking and double checking test results.”

The labs at each facility provide a full range of services, including hematology, coagulation, chemistry, urinalysis, microbiology and transfusion services.

In additional to physician-ordered testing, the Langley Hospital Laboratory supports the Emergency Department, Labor and Delivery and inpatient services 24-hours a day.

Based on clinic capabilities and equipment, test results can be completed in-house within a few hours, some may take up to a week if a sample is sent to an additional lab for testing.

According to U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Vincent Hurtado, 633rd MDSS Laboratory Chemistry NCO in charge, lab technicians across the installation are experienced, well-trained and pride themselves on their attention to detail.

“Conducting tests correctly, in a timely manner and getting the results to the doctor quickly is really important because it might make a difference between getting better quicker,” said Hurtado. “Delayed treatment or inaccurate test results could mean the difference between life or death.”

To gain proficiency and perfect their skills, laboratory students in phase two of their technical training spend nine months at the laboratories at JBLE to earn American Society for Clinical Pathology board certifications, needed when transitioning to future duty locations worldwide.

Since body chemistry fluctuates, technicians recommend following physicians orders exactly when coming in for lab testing, such as fasting for a specific time frame before samples are taken.

“If your physician requires you to fast for 12 hours before a cholesterol test and you eat something high in cholesterol right before you come in, your cholesterol levels are going to be higher than your baseline level,” said U.S. Army Spc. Tony Kipkemboi, McDonald Army Medical Center U.S. Army Medical Activity medical laboratory technician. “We know it’s not enjoyable to not be able to eat or drink anything during that period, but the results from that test could be vital to your health and treatment provided by your physician.”

The MCAHC Laboratory is open for walk-in tests Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the Langley Hospital Laboratory is open for walk-in tests Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information or questions, call the MCAHC Laboratory at 757-314-7580 or the Langley Hospital Laboratory at 757-764-6930.