Nearly everyone who comes into the hospital has some sort of blood work done, and the lab serves as a hub. Lab technologists are the first to see diseases like lymphoma, leukemia, and other cancer cells. They can also detect anemia, infections, bleeding disorders, and signs of stroke or heart failure. I mostly work with the microscope, where I confirm the findings of the machines and ensure accuracy. We screen for infectious diseases. We look for sepsis. The analysis and feedback from the lab help the care team make decisions such as, “Is it safe to give this medical procedure, or are further tests necessary?” Lab results hold the keys to determining care and a plan of treatment.
This is why I am dedicated to coming into work, even in bad weather, because someone has to be here. The patients need their blood work. A speedy diagnosis is so crucial when a patient needs expedited treatment, and we can help do that for them. I put on my snowshoes and push through the snow even if the streets haven’t been plowed yet. One time I sat and slid down a hill, which wasn’t very smart. But critically ill patients can’t wait. I live only 10 blocks from the hospital and I bring my sleeping bag if bad weather is on the horizon.
I try to be positive. Even in challenging situations, it can make a difference. I show respect to everyone. I make holiday cards for the entire lab team each year. There are about 500 people, from phlebotomists to lab workers in special chemistry, coagulation, and microbiology, to processing technicians, housekeeping personnel and clerk typists. It takes me about three to four days to make the cards. It is a lot of work, but people seem to appreciate it. I guess it is old-fashioned. My father had his own company and would go in each morning and make coffee for everyone. Looking back on it that may have been the inspiration.
I do a lot of reading and a little sewing in my personal time. I do physical therapy and exercise and catch up with friends, and just try to make things better. If someone has a problem, I talk to them about it and try to come up with a solution. My favorite book is The Color Purple because it shows how when a person is beaten down, they still get back up and fight. That epitomizes how I try to live my life by turning adversity into opportunity.
Elaine Manning, CLT, is a clinical laboratory technologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. She studies blood samples to confirm the findings of the laboratory machines and ensure accuracy. Clinical laboratory technologists are the first to see signs of infection, certain cancers, anemia, bleeding disorders, and signs of stroke or heart failure, and can monitor a patient’s recovery from transplant surgery.