Our Lab Professionals Trump Our Lab Processors


Our microwave processor with a blown heating element.

Our histology microwave unit gave out yesterday. Oversimplifying a bit, the instrument removes processing chemicals from our tissue biopsies and replaces it with paraffin wax. This wax infiltrated tissue is then thinly cut by our histology technologists, placed on glass slides, stained, and then turned over to the pathologists to make a diagnosis. So when the processor goes, it puts a crimp, or more realistically a crash, in our operations.

We pamper our instruments, give them routine maintenance, and have the service companies on speed dial. But even so, sometimes parts fail. In this case, it was a heating element in the microwave unit of the processor. We were dismayed to learn it would be a two-day wait to get the service technician and the new part on site.  We needed Plan B.

We have contacts at several area hospitals and private labs who have agreed to let us come by and use their equipment when we are in a jam. But some of those labs were having instrument problems of their own and other labs were facing the post-holiday rush and could only give us a short window of time to do our processing. It wouldn't be enough.

Putting their heads together the histology team theorized a potential, but slow, workaround using a different piece of equipment to boil out the chemicals and infiltrate in the paraffin. I authorized a trial with some sample tissue and we waited to see if the process would work.

The test worked fine, and we decided to could process our patient samples using the workaround. But it would be time consuming and we could see from our electronic ordering system that today we would be receiving an exceptionally heavy load of biopsies.

I was reviewing our staffing options to handle all the biopsies with the section supervisor. Overtime work, weekend hours, and on-call staffers were all options that we considered. And then one of our techs walked over and said in a very matter of fact voice "Don't worry Dr. Raff, we're professionals. We'll get it done."

Hell yeah! I sometimes forget just how good and tight and willing to do what it takes this lab team is. Not just in histology, but also in cytology and chemistry and microbiology and hematology. The behind the scenes staff, too. I cannot think of a single time they have dropped the ball. In 13 years, neither rain nor snow nor dark of night has ever prevented one of our patients from getting their lab results and diagnoses in a timely manner.

Our accrediting agencies say we are a good lab because we meet a few thousand line items on a checklist. I know that we are a good lab because that is what our staff wants it to be, and they strive for it every day. So I am not going to wait for National Laboratory Week in May to say thank you to this team we have built, to the professionals who never stop making me proud.

Thank you, and Happy Holidays. You never let us down.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of UroPartners LLC.


Yesterday's blog's best comment: Helen Peters: Dizzy and Kung Fu Fighting??? Really?? But no Beach Boys, no Eric Clapton, no Tom Petty, no Cars? Even Brittany Spears would be better than Dizzy or Kung Fu Fighting!!!  

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