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Medical laboratory professionals perform COVID-19 tests, face burnout and exhaustion

(Photo: CBS Austin){p}{/p}
(Photo: CBS Austin)

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As frontline healthcare workers continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic head on, medical laboratory professionals are stretched thin behind the scenes.

Over 1.4 million Texans have tested positive for COVID-19, and behind every COVID-19 test are medical laboratory professionals going through a series of steps to find out whether it’s positive or negative.

“The actual testing process happens in the medical laboratory, whether it’s in a hospital laboratory or public health laboratory or a clinical site somewhere. We’re getting the sample, we’re running it through a series of steps, we’re getting the result as being positive or negative and then we’re getting that information to your physician as rapidly as possible,” said Rodney Rohde, Adjunct Professor at Austin Community College and Chair of Texas State Clinical Laboratory Science.

Rohde said this additional workload creates a need for more medical laboratory professionals.

“Right now, what is happening is these professionals on top of that comprehensive laboratory testing that they’re doing each and every day behind the scenes, they’re literally now doing thousands and thousands of tests per day,” Rohde said. “Many of our professionals are working 12 to 14 hour shifts per day and some will work 7 to 14 days in a row and they’ve had to step up because that’s what it’s taking. They are physically and, in many cases, emotionally just exhausted.”

Rohde said if it wasn’t for the additional hours these professionals are putting in, Texans wouldn’t get COVID-19 test results back as fast, which is why it’s equally as important to shine light on the professionals working behind the scenes.

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“Research shows that about 2/3 of all medical decisions are based on your laboratory medicine data, so we’re a very critical part of healthcare,” Rohde said. “Without us, healthcare is kind of flying blind and that’s again all respect for everybody else, but you must have confirmatory, laboratory work before you can move forward with diagnoses and treatment plans.”

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