HOURS OF SERVICE:
Outpatient Monday – Friday 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Inpatient/Emergency 24-hour coverage
Have you ever wondered what happens to those little vials of blood your doctor has you give for tests? The following is provided to give you an idea of what goes on behind the laboratory doors.
What is tested in the laboratory? In a hospital lab, we do testing on clinical specimens. Some of the tests done in a clinical lab might have similarities to tests done in other types of labs, but clinical labs do not test water samples or other materials.
What is a clinical specimen? A clinical specimen is anything from a patient. Common specimens to test are blood and tissue, but the specimen can be anything. For example, some tests are conducted on sweat. There are tests that some clinical labs might do on hair or fingernails. In our lab, the majority of tests are conducted on blood, urine, cerebral spinal fluid, or other bodily fluids, or on tissue, that is, some solid piece of some part of the body.
What comprises the laboratory department? The laboratory at Waldo and in most hospitals is divided into separate sections, depending on the technology being used or the specific type of testing being done. Clinical Chemistry concentrates on tests done on the fluid portion of blood, as well as some other bodily fluids. Hematology looks at the cellular components of blood and coagulation involved in clotting. Microbiology deals with infectious diseases, which can include diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, or tuberculosis. The Blood Bank deals with transfusions. Phlebotomy collects blood specimens for testing. Histology and Cytology deal with anatomic pathology.
When is the lab in operation? Although our outpatient services for specimen collection have more limited hours, the lab is in operation 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. There is always a qualified tech in the lab whose job it is to run stat specimens, to man the blood bank, or to deal with whatever support the lab needs to provide to the other hospital services.
What is the difference between a hospital lab and an independent lab? The two types of labs have a lot of similarities. Both have the same types of equipment and divisions, technologists, and technicians, but the character and culture of the two are different. A hospital laboratory is an integral part of the hospital. It is a “service center,” which consults with patients’ physicians. Independent labs, also called commercial labs, are separate from the hospital and are “profit centers.” Both types of labs are regulated by the Department of Health.
How do I know if lab results will be accurate? All labs — hospital and independent — spend extraordinary amounts of time, effort, and money to assure that results are accurate. In a typical lab, as many as 25% of samples tested are over and above patient specimens and are used to calibrate and control testing. This is a huge commitment to quality.
What are some of the advantages of using the hospital lab? The ability to correlate with previous results or with physician clinical information adds a layer of scrutiny beyond all the internal efforts made toward accuracy. Ultimately, you count on the quality of the lab, the relationship of the physician with the lab, and the correlation between results and clinical information, as well as looking at results over time. In the hospital lab, if there is any question, problem with the nature of a specimen, or any technical, storage, or transportation problems, you can count on there being rapid communication, and any suspect result will be re-checked.
Why am I told to fast before a lab test? Most tests can be run on a specimen regardless of whether the patient has been fasting. Certain tests are very sensitive to changes that occur after a meal and can only be interpreted by comparing results in a fasting state. The duration of fasting is dependent on the type of test. For example, blood sugar can be done after a 6-hour fast, but for triglycerides or a lipid profile, a full 12-hour fast is required.
To contact the laboratory at Waldo County General Hospital, call (207) 338-9333