Laboratory techs look for clues

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Janine Thibault
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The human body is a complicated system.

Luckily, 354th Medical Support Squadron laboratory technicians are here to help maintain that system, analyzing specimens to gain insight into bodily malfunctions or identify health risks.

After seeing a physician, patients that require testing to assist in the diagnosis or identification of their ailment go to the laboratory in the pursuit of a better understanding of their condition.

The laboratory is equipped to test a multitude of specimens to identify illnesses and make sure patients are not at risk.

The laboratory offers fertility testing, urinalysis, hematology, chemistry, microbiology and shipping and receiving specimens.

The tests offer valuable looks into a patient's health. For instance, a complete metabolic panel is used to check enzymes and electrolytes, among other health factors, which gives doctors a good depiction of the patient's health status.

"We can find out if someone has diabetes, if they are spilling protein into their urine, if they're working out too hard or if there is an underlying reason they are experiencing symptoms," said Staff Sgt. Michael Urena, 354th MDSS NCO in-charge of shipping and receiving.

This information can prove vital for treating the individual in the most effective way.

Some people may become squeamish at the thought of getting their blood drawn, but technicians understand the importance of obtaining blood samples.

"We try to provide the safest, calmest environment," said Urena. "Here in the laboratory on Eielson we definitely try to treat every patient with care and compassion and keep them as comfortable as possible."

Their work often goes far beyond drawing blood and into intensive analysis of various samples, such as when testing patients for malaria. When testing patients for malaria, technicians must stain a slide to manually count the elevated number of white blood cells.

"If you have Malaria, you have different parasites living in your blood," said Urena. "We visually look and distinguish each type of white blood cell the patient has (and) also see what different red blood cells look like."

Laboratory technicians also perform viral testing to see where patients' levels are for immunizations like Hepatitis and Chicken Pox. These tests determine if they have antibodies for a particular virus. If not, they are sent to the 354th Medical Group immunizations clinic to ensure they are fully protected against possible viruses. They can also help test and relay sexually transmitted disease reports to infection control.

According to Urena, the chemistry department practices a wide skill set from customer service to sample analysis.

"As laboratory techs here, we do everything," said Urena. "The same person that greets the patient and checks them in draws their blood or gives them collection materials needed for the test. The sample is analyzed and reported to the doctors. So we do the entire process from beginning to end, which is unique to small laboratories."

By taking a peek into bodily specimens, laboratory technicians can assist the doctor with the care of the Iceman Team. The information they acquire through testing is important in steering the patient in a healthier direction or on the path to recovery.