Medical laboratory technicians are healthcare workers predominantly, they are known for their role in diagnostic setups. Laboratory professionals work in a variety of environments including hospital laboratories, Pharmaceutical industry, Vaccine industry, Food industry, Public Health as well as in the Agricultural field-
Health Care Workers (HCW) are at the forefront in the battle of the COVID-19 pandemic, they play a crucial role in saving thousands of lives. Doctors and nurses are struggling hard to cure COVID-19 patients. Lab technicians are also working shoulder to shoulder with other healthcare workers but their role is hidden. Role of Medical Lab Technicians is not seen by patients and family members, which comes as serious concern faced by this profession.
Let us throw some light about the work of lab Technicians in the COVID-19 pandemic. The work that medical laboratory professionals do provides clinical support for the diagnosis of COVID-19. Patients rely on clinicians to manage and provide answers for healthcare concerns, and clinicians rely on laboratories to provide accurate and reliable results, which aid the best clinical decisions.
- Junior lab technicians are collecting and handling samples, and the expert and experienced technicians are involved in the sample analysis of suspected COVID-19 infected patients
- With all infection control protocols lab technicians collects the swab sample from the nasopharyngeal area or the Oropharyngeal area. This is a crucial task, if not done correctly may result in patient discomfort, wrong sampling and need for resampling arises
- The swabs are then transported to the lab area where identification of the virus is done
- Testing for COVID-19 involves the fusion of two laboratory disciplines. Obtaining and processing the physical specimens is standard microbiology, while the actual test for the virus is a molecular diagnostics process based upon quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology (a technique, allowing scientists to detect a very small amount of virus in a sample by amplifying the target DNA or RNA to detectable levels)
Apart from the diagnostic role during the pandemic, the senior and expert medical laboratory technologists are also performing other important roles:
- Biochemists or microbiologists are working hard with other lab scientists in the development of drugs and vaccines to test the effectivity for the treatment and prevention of the coronavirus
- They are also working on the development of better rapid testing kits, to scale up the COVID-19 testing
- The MLT professionals have an important role in epidemiological surveys of the Coronavirus
- The MLT professionals help to stop the disease spread at the community level, by breaking chain of infection through early detection and isolating the positive cases
- Early detection of Covid-19 also helps and warns healthcare workers to protect themselves as per Infection control protocols for other healthcare ailments too
What after the coronavirus pandemic?
After this pandemic, the main concern will be in making our health sector stronger and ready for a similar crisis which may come in the future. This can be achieved by:
- Providing young MLT professionals exposure to advanced techniques such as techniques used in molecular labs
- On-going research in the leading research organizations
- A component of epidemiology to be included in the curriculum with practical training and students to be involved in epidemiological surveys
- Various healthcare projects and epidemiological surveys piloted by healthcare academies will provide a rich experience to these students in their career building
- A new role came into focus as diagnostic management teams (DMTs). DMTs are advanced-practice laboratory medicine specialists who are part of the healthcare team that assists physicians (and others) in the selection and interpretation of the most appropriate laboratory tests.
Medical laboratory professionals are the doctor’s doctor, physicians (and others) rely on the expertise of laboratory tests, from the pre-analytical to the post-analytical work. Let us make sure that the future lab technicians will be prepared to face the crisis like the current one. We salute the unsung heroes of the world for their silent contribution in the on-going crisis.