Celebrating National Medical Laboratory Week at Island Health

Posted on: April 12, 2024


Celebrating National Medical Laboratory Week at Island Health

It's National Medical Laboratory Week across Canada from April 14 to 20!

This is an annual celebration of medical laboratory professionals in recognition of the vital contributions they make to provincial healthcare and to the health and wellness of British Columbians.

This year's theme is “Behind Every Patient." 

Medical Laboratory Professionals play a crucial role in the care of all our patients, from collecting patients' blood samples to analyzing blood, body fluid and tissue samples and providing clinicians with information vital to diagnosis and treatment. Our team works tirelessly to provide lab services islandwide, performing approximately 4 million diagnostic tests per year and providing service to over 225,000 patients! 

Lab uses state-of-the-art equipment and technology to ensure that our teams provide accurate and timely results so that our patients get the best care and support.

Please take a moment to celebrate and share your appreciation for the lab professionals at Island Health and discover how they contribute to quality patient care and service at all of our sites.

Watch this short video to hear stories from MedLab Professions about Lab Life!

Who's on Island Health's laboratory teams? Professions within the laboratory include Medical Laboratory Assistants, Medical Laboratory Technologists, Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technologists, and Pathologists' Assistants. These professionals work together with laboratory physicians to provide accurate and timely results in order to deliver high-quality patient care to the populations served by Island Health.  We also have Lab Clerks, Transcriptionists and Admin Assistants who provide support to our lab team.

Medical Laboratory Assistants (MLAs) are often known as the “face" of the lab since they interact with the public, performing phlebotomy and ECGs. What you might not know is that they are also essential behind the scenes, entering requisitions, working in call centres, accessioning lab samples, preparing samples for analysis and send out, and assisting in the core laboratory. An MLA's commitment to quality may be seen in the swift delivery of STAT samples and attention to detail during blood collection and preparation of specimens. Their skill is demonstrated by their ability to collect blood from tiny newborns, calm anxious patients, attend traumas, and efficiently oversee busy morning rounds on the wards.

Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLTs) analyze tissue samples, blood, and other body fluids in several disciplines. They provide high quality results to physicians that are vital to determining a diagnosis and making treatment decisions. There are three MLT designations: General, Clinical Genetics, and Diagnostic Cytology.

General MLTs specialize in the following clinical areas:

  • Chemistry – Processes samples to detect chemicals, hormones, and drugs. e.g., Glucose, Cholesterol, TSH, liver and kidney function.
  • Hematology – Performs differential cell counts and coagulation testing. e.g., CBC, Mono, INR/PTT.
  • Transfusion Medicine – Performs blood typing and compatibility testing for transfusions.  Issues blood products including packed red blood cells, plasma, platelets, and IVIG.
  • Anatomical Pathology – Prepares samples of body tissue for analysis by a pathologist for diagnosis. e.g., skin and GI biopsies, as well as large surgical resections.
  • Microbiology – Performs testing on blood, body fluids, tissues, and swabs for bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites.

Clinical Genetic MLTs specialize in DNA and chromosomal analysis to detect diseases and abnormalities. This field also encompasses the molecular diagnostic specialty responsible for testing COVID-19 swabs.

Diagnostic Cytology MLTs specialize in microscopic cellular analysis to detect pre-cancerous and cancerous cells. e.g., fine needle aspirates of thyroid and lung nodules, pleural fluids, and urines.

There is currently a national and international shortage of trained laboratory professionals that is severely impacting our facilities across the health authority. Mitigation strategies are being discussed, developed, and delivered at the local, provincial, and national levels, but staffing shortages are projected well into the foreseeable future.

How Can You Provide Support?

  • Patience is appreciated – Laboratory staff members are working diligently to provide high quality results as soon as possible, even as resources are stretched thin.
  • Laboratory Test Utilization – Familiarize yourself with Choosing Wisely recommendations for laboratory testing and assist the lab with appropriate resource management.
  • Advocate – Speak up and let local and provincial governments know that you are concerned about how laboratory shortages are impacting patient care.

For more information about the Medical Laboratory Profession, please visit the Medical Laboratory Profession webpage.