In a time when we have come to rely on medical laboratory professionals more and more, we also run the risk of taking their work for granted. Their work is so integral to our health and everyday life that most people rarely take notice. Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, April 18-24, 2021, helps to bring critical attention to the work they do and their impact on our lives.
We are proud to join the American Society of Microbiology in celebrating the work of clinical laboratory professionals. We thank Medical Laboratory Professionals for their commitment to a safer, healthier world.
According to the CDC, around 70% of all medical decisions depend on laboratory diagnostics. Yet this number may be deceptive, when you consider how a sequence of medical actions may ultimately lead back to a single laboratory result. When you factor in the percentage of minor medical issues that can be diagnosed with the physicians’ examinations alone, then you begin to see the true impact of the unsung heroes in medical laboratories as much greater than the 70% statistic may suggest.
Never has their impact been clearer than the COVID-19 pandemic. Already integral to our health in non-pandemic times, laboratory professionals have had to step up to new levels of efficiency and excellence. They have responded to unprecedented challenges with new strategies to maintain their standards of excellence. As of this posting, the CDC has reported over 398,900,000 COVID-19 tests performed within the USA alone. For a population estimated to be around 330,222,000, that is more than one test per individual. To reach these numbers, each of the estimated 327,800 laboratory professionals had to perform an average of over 1,200 SARS-CoV-2 tests—all while maintaining other duties amidst the uncertainties and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 test results guided not only medical decisions but also government policy and day-to-day life. Students, sent home from school for signs of COVID-19 symptoms, waited for negative results to return to class. Their parents depended on negative results to return to work. For some, COVID-19 testing became the rule rather than the exception. Because many who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 show few or no symptoms, some organizations, like health care systems, began implementing mandatory routine testing. COVID-19 testing became a requisite of normal work activities. COVID-19 testing became so commonplace that it became routine and unnoticed.
Early in the pandemic, the lack of access to testing made headlines, calling attention to the critical importance of the lab but obscuring the importance of lab professionals and their dedication to patient health. Though their work often goes unnoticed, its impact remains immeasurable. Despite the profound effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not the only health crisis laboratory professionals currently face. Medical laboratory professionals remain indispensable in the ongoing global fight against multiple “hidden pandemics,” including increasing antibiotic resistance and rising STI rates.
Life as we know it—before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic—would be unthinkable without Medical Laboratory Professionals. Please join us in celebrating the unsung heroes in medical laboratories around the world.
“COVID Data Tracker.” CDC. Retrieved Apr. 20, 2021. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#testing_positivity7day
“Diagnostic & Medical Laboratories Industry in the US – Market Research Report.” (2020, Nov. 17) IBISWorld. Retrieved Apr. 20, 2021. https://www.ibisworld.com/united-states/market-research-reports/diagnostic-medical-laboratories-industry/
“Strengthening Clinical Laboratories.” CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/csels/dls/strengthening-clinical-labs.html