POLACCA, Ariz. - Laboratory professionals at Hopi Health Care Center will be celebrating Lab Week this week to honor their very own lab team on the Hopi Reservation that performs and interprets lab tests that save lives and helps keep people healthy. Laboratory technologists and technicians are among the many unsung heroes in the healthcare profession.
National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week is an annual celebration of the medical laboratory professionals and pathologists who play a vital role in every aspect of health care. This week is a chance for laboratory personnel to celebrate their profession and be recognized for their efforts. This time is used to inform and educate medical professionals and the public about the medical laboratory.
Since lab professionals often work behind the scenes, few people know much about the critical testing they perform everyday. The dedicated efforts of lab professionals often go unnoticed by the general public, as well as by the very institutions employing their services.
The Hopi Health Care Center Laboratory consists of a staff of nine: Amanda Tracey (Lab Supervisor), Earl Harvey, Shirley Batala, June Talaswaima, Kimberly Tom, Riana Puhuyaoma, Olivia Honahnie, Jeannie Charlie and Kendrick Fritz. The lab also has an Outpatient Medical Support Assistant, Shirley Nasevaema, who assists with patient lab orders. Although the laboratory is small, a high volume of testing is performed on a daily basis including testing services on weekends and nights with on-call patient service after hours.
With the aid of new and innovating technology and instrumentation, lab techs/technicians are able to help prevent disease by assisting in the detection of unknown health risks and by aiding in the diagnosis and treatment of existing health problems by reporting accurate and timely test results. Test results are vital to the diagnosis and treatment of illness and disease.
Keeping a laboratory going takes hard work and precise monitoring that many people are unaware of. Time away from home is taken when lab personnel work on-call while already on a normal work schedule. Doctors or other medical staff call in a laboratory tech at any time when testing is requested, especially during emergency situations. Each test and its results are extremely critical for every specimen/patient that is received through the laboratory.
According to the American Society for Clinical Pathology's Board of Registry, vacancies in laboratory positions within the United States are at a 12 -year high. A total of more than 13,000 new medical technologists are needed to meet the demand for laboratory services as the U.S. population ages. However, the average number of graduates from accredited programs is less than 5,000 a year, indicating an annual shortage of more than 8,000 qualified personnel.
Amanda Tracey, Bear clan from Shipaluovi Village, is the Supervisory Medical technologist and states, "Working in the clinical laboratory field continues to be both challenging and rewarding. Many laboratories throughout the U.S. continue to face a shortage of laboratory professionals. Our lab also has faced the challenge of being short staffed for the past two years. We still continued to maintain high quality services for the Hopi Health Care Center as evidenced by another successful Joint Commission Laboratory Accreditation survey conducted in 2008."
"The profession is very rewarding in many ways" states Olivia Honahnie. "Lab staff will be happy to speak with anyone who may be contemplating a career as a medical laboratory professional. There is an extreme shortage of professional medical laboratory staff here on the Hopi reservation. Lab techs/technicians contribute daily to saving and prolonging lives of our people and what they offer is an invaluable service."
Earl Harvey, Senior Medical technologist has been employed with Hopi Health Care for the last 18 years. He was born in Whitefish, Mont. and states, "I enjoy working at the HHCC laboratory and find it gratifying to have a role in helping doctors diagnose, treat, and manage the health care of patients. Lab employees circulate through all the departments of the lab so I don't get bored. There is a big demand for laboratory professionals on all the reservations and the rest of the United States, so if you enjoy the sciences, you may want to explore a career as a laboratory professional."
Shirley Batala, Coyote clan from the Village of Mishongnovi, has been employed by IHS for the last 29 years and states, "My job is challenging at times but knowing that I am helping our people here on the reservation brings a rewarding feeling because we are providing high quality laboratory services. I would like to stress to our younger people that they should get a higher education, earn your degrees, and return home to take care of our people. There is a major need for medical technologists."
June Talaswaima, Pumpkin clan from Shipaluovi Village, stated, "It's that time of the year again for Medical Laboratory Professionals Week. I'd like to invite the HHCC Staff and the general public to come by and take a tour of our lab. Come for an informative tour with 'People Behind the Scenes.' Laboratory professionals play a critical role in the health care system by providing physicians with timely and accurate results which in turn help them diagnose and set out treatment plans for patients."
Kimberly Tom, Snake clan from Bacavi Village, states, "I've been working in the laboratory for almost 12 years now and still enjoy my job because I am assisting in the care of the patient. Without our results the doctors would not be able to fully assess or diagnose the patients' illness. I enjoy being part of a team that is helping and assisting our people to return to healthy individuals."
Olivia Honahnie, Coyote clan from Hotevilla, stated "Our jobs can be very challenging and demanding at times, but it feels good to know that we've helped in the process to treat, cure, and prevent an illness or disease of a patient. A lot of the time we go unnoticed or are a mystery to patients because some of us rarely have interaction with patients, but we are very busy helping the patient by testing and analyzing their blood or other specimens. So, I just wanted to express my appreciation to my co-workers for all of their dedication and hard work that is put into the laboratory because I see it for myself every single day."
Jeannie Charlie, Fire clan from Polacca, has been working in the medical laboratory field for the last 28 years but is new here at Hopi Health Care Center and states," The laboratory is demanding and rewarding as well. We are constantly assisting providers with treatment and diagnosis of patients' illnesses." Jeannie is a medical technologist who just started at HHCC in October of 2008.
Kendrick Fritz, Reed clan from Moencopi is a Medical technologist and also new to Hopi Health Care has worked in the medical laboratory field for 22 years. He worked three of those years in the U.S. Navy, and 19 years with IHS. Kendrick arrived this March and is excited to have begun his career here at Hopi Health Care Center. Kendrick states, "I have really enjoyed working in the lab performing all sorts of tests using blood, urine, and other body fluids and utilizing various automated laboratory instruments or performing manual tests making sure the test results are accurate so that the doctors can interpret them to treat and diagnose the disease or illness a patient has acquired. If you are looking into a medical field that utilizes science, then Medical Technology is the occupation to get into. It is a very rewarding career to get into since medical laboratory professionals have a direct impact on how patients are medically treated by providers such as nurses and doctors. I am willing to speak with anyone interested in this career and will talk about how to get into the field. Happy Lab Week to all IHS Laboratorians!"
Riana Puhuyaoma, Coyote clan from Moencopi, states, "Sometimes it gets really stressful and intense working in the lab because of the time limits, checking for accuracy, and quality testing but it keeps me busy and I don't mind because I'm helping to prolong life for our people. I want the younger people to look into this field because it is very rewarding and fun and the hard work pays off. Understanding the illnesses that patients carry is intriguing which makes you want to help in any way possible. We strive to provide quality testing and accurate reporting for all of our patients."
The HHCC Laboratory is surveyed and accredited separately from the rest of the facility and has maintained accreditation by JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations). The Hopi Health Care Center Laboratory continues to provide high quality services to the Hopi Reservation and surrounding communities.
During the week, the laboratory will host an open house on Wednesday, April 22 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with various displays and games for view by the public. Stop by to view the displays, to give thanks and say hello. Free glucose testing will be offered on a daily basis for those interested in getting a blood sugar reading.