This week, April 23-29th, is Medical Laboratory Professionals Week – the perfect time to better understand and appreciate clinical laboratory personnel and highlight the critical shortage the nation is facing.
As a service to our patients, Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center (WVCI) operates its own moderately complex in-house lab. Having an in-house lab provides timely, accurate information to our physicians to assist them in delivering the best possible care for our patients daily.
WVCI’s laboratory includes 19 personnel, 3 sites, and 3 departments: chemistry, hematology, and immunology. The chemistry department performs testing for the physiological condition of patients, while hematology involves the diagnosis, care, and treatment of patients with disorders of the blood cells and blood-forming organs.
The highly skilled laboratory team at WVCI includes medical assistants/phlebotomists who expertly draw blood and collect samples as well as medical technologists who use specialized instruments to analyze the samples and provide detailed results for providers . This well-coordinated team daily performs 100-200+ tests including complete blood counts (CBC), complete metabolic panels (CMP), thyroid testing, anemia labs, and a battery of tumor markers and special chemistry testing.
In-House Laboratory and Research Trials
The laboratory team at WVCI also provides services for patients in clinical research trials ensuring each specimen is handled according to protocol so that the data is not skewed or compromised. Research patients take an additional level of coordination, documentation, and care on the part of the team. “Research gives our patients that extra glimmer of hope and an extra option, “ explains Jessica Bridges, “the work we do here has a direct impact on people’s lives, and I’m humbled by the work we do every day."
Many patients are seen by the laboratory staff over the course of weeks, months and sometimes years. For the staff, seeing patients go from fearful to less anxious about seeing their care team makes the job even more worthwhile. “The most rewarding part is when I can give a patient a good experience,” says Angela Carpenter, a Lab Assistant at WVCI Corvallis. Jessica Bridges agrees, “you get to know them. Your job becomes much more personal.”
“Our (Laboratory) team truly cares about each and every patient and we do everything in our power to ensure the best quality of care and results are given.”
-Jessica Bridges, MT(AAB) WVCI Laboratory Services Supervisor
The Clinical Laboratory Stasffing Shortage Facing Oregon and the Nation
As fulfilling as the work is, attracting new talent can be challenging. The demand nationally and in Oregon has outpaced educational opportunities to meet the need. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, an anticipated 12,000 new medical lab professionals are needed yearly to meet the national demand. However, there are only about 5,000 graduates each academic year.
“We are facing a shortage,” Jessica warns, “many medical technologists have taken traveling jobs…but it’s only a temporary solution to a long-term issue.” Currently there is only 1 BA program and 1 AA program in the state of Oregon for clinical lab sciences. While Willamette Valley Cancer Institute has been able to recruit and keep an outstanding team, there are position open as we continue to expand to meet the growing need for community-based cancer care close to home in Albany, Corvallis, Eugene, Florence, Lincoln City, Newport, and Springfield.
Care would not be as efficient, precise, and friendly if it weren’t for the medical laboratory professionals at WVCI who make it their aim, day in, day out, to exceed expectations and work as a team for the sake of the patients and providers that depend on them.
“When you have the intellect (referring to the lab team) and the heart it really makes you want to be at work and want to strive for excellence.”
– Jessica Bridges, Lab Services Supervisor
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about laboratory positions available at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center, please visit our website career page at www.oregoncancer.com/careers.