COVID-19 can’t stop Lab Week

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Brittany E. N. Murphy
  • 30th Space Wing Public Affairs

Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, also known as Lab Week, is observed annually to promote awareness and show appreciation to medical laboratory professionals and pathologists for the work they do to assist patients.

This year, however, members of Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., are celebrating Lab Week under difference circumstances. Lab Week, April 19 through 25, 2020, occurred this year during a world-wide pandemic. To show their support, this year’s Lab Week theme for the 30th Healthcare Operations Squadron Laboratory was ‘The Silent Warriors behind COVID.’

While safety procedures have been put in place across the installation, such as wearing a face mask, the operations at the 30th HCOS Laboratory have not changed. Members are still greeted by lab technicians upon check-in, where they gather the patient’s information and ensure the right tests have been ordered.

By each individual wearing a mask, the lab technicians are still able to safely obtain samples from patients, allowing them to process all critical tests to ensure that members are still receiving the care and test results they need, despite COVID-19.

The job of a laboratory technician is not as easy as simply drawing blood. Lab techs, and the information they provide, is extremely important to mission readiness. By drawing blood, they are able to perform critical tests which aid in various diagnoses such as urinary tract infections, high cholesterol, diabetes, and more serious diseases like cancer. Their continuous support directly aides the 30th Space Wing’s Individual Medical Readiness, flight physicals, and occupational health readiness.

As members at the 30th HCOS continue to provide care amidst the pandemic, they are focused on finding better and timelier ways to assist their patients.

In addition to the daily diagnostic activities, lab techs are at the forefront of implementing new diagnostics and therapies for better patient care. During the pandemic, the 30th HCOS Laboratory team has worked diligently to make sure that members at Vandenberg AFB stay safe and healthy.

According to Capt. Lenita Campbell, Diagnostics and Therapeutics officer in charge, Vandenberg AFB was the first base in the United States Space Force and the second outpatient clinic in the Department of Defense to provide COVID-19 testing. In addition to standard testing, the COVID-19 rapid testing capability, was brought to the 30th Medical Group approximately one week before the start of Lab Week.

“BioFire technology is a game changer,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Rountree, 30th HCOS commander. “Before BioFire, all tests were shipped to one of our DoD reference labs in San Diego, which had a 24- to 72-hour turnaround time. Bringing this new technology to the 30th Medical Group allows us to get results within an hour, which will support operational and healthcare decisions.”

Since supplies are limited, BioFire will be used on a case-by-case basis to make the best use of current resources. If patients meet the criteria for testing, the type of test they are administered, either in-house testing or shipped to a military reference laboratory, will be determined by a mission impact assessment made by effected commanders and the base public health officer.

“The laboratory team was very excited to bring this technology to Vandenberg because this will allow our healthcare providers to collect from symptomatic patients and have results within an hour,” said Campbell. “This will allow for quicker diagnosis of the disease, which will ultimately protect our military mission and community by issuing proper isolation and quarantine protocols to anyone exposed. Additionally, a faster result time has the potential to reduce the number of people placed in quarantine which keeps our members launching rockets, one lab test at a time.”