Helen Hayes Hospital Clinical Laboratory: Who is Running My Lab Tests?

May 2, 2013

Research has shown that at least 70% of all medical decisions rely on some sort of laboratory data.

The Clinical Laboratory at Helen Hayes Hospital is licensed by the New York State Department of Health, and accredited by the College of American Pathologists (the “Gold Standard” of clinical laboratory accreditation).  The Lab is inspected every two years by each of these agencies so we are inspected every year!

The personnel running your lab tests are all licensed by the New York State Department of Education as Clinical Laboratory Technologists.  In order to qualify for this license, they must have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in a field related to the clinical laboratory sciences and now must pass a licensing exam.  Our current staff has an average of more than 22 years in the field, ranging from a low of 3 years to more than 40 years, and hold degrees ranging from a bachelor’s to a masters and doctoral degrees.  In addition to a license, some of our staff also holds certification as a Medical Laboratory Scientist from The Board of Certification of The American Society for Clinical Pathology – MLS(ASCP).

We run tests in Hematology, Chemistry, Endocrinology, Therapeutic Drug Monitoring, Toxicology, Urinalysis and Microbiology on blood, urine, feces and other specimens.  When a licensed Technologist joins our staff, they go through a training period of about three months before they start reporting results on their own.  We also have an extensive program of continuing education to ensure that we employ the latest tests and lab techniques.

The lab is overseen by a Laboratory Director who is a Pathologist (MD), and is Board Certified in Clinical Pathology.  He is assisted by a second Board Certified Pathologist and a Board Certified Microbiologist holding a PhD in Microbiology.  Our Directors come to us from Columbia University Medical Center/New York Presbyterian Hospital where they have clinical, academic and research responsibilities. All have published extensively in the medical literature.  Our Directors and Technologists are available to the Medical and Nursing staff to assist in ordering and interpreting the wide variety of tests that are available today.

Everyone has seen TV shows where the lab is blamed for losing specimens, mixing up specimens or doing the tests incorrectly.  This is very unfortunate as most laboratories today, including Helen Hayes, are highly computerized with specimens labeled with barcodes at the time they are obtained from the patient, and analyzers that read the barcodes with a near 0% error rate.  In addition to the Technologists reviewing all results, computers track results and flag anything that appears to be very abnormal or inconsistent with previous results – these are then repeated and verified, and then communicated to the Medical and Nursing staff promptly.  When testing is completed reports go to the clinical staff by computer.

-Charles J. Muller, MS, MLS(ASCP), CLT(NYS), MT(HEW)
Laboratory Manager