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HCA Healthcare lab colleagues unite during pandemic to process 2.5 million COVID-19 tests and counting

Woman wearing white lab coat and face mask looking into a microscope

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 billion laboratory tests are ordered annually in our country and 70% of medical decisions depend on laboratory results. Each April, Lab Week is an opportunity to pause and celebrate our medical laboratory professionals and pathologists who operate behind the scenes running tests, analyzing samples and delivering results that guide and inform patient care. Lab Week 2021 will go down in history, paying tribute to HCA Healthcare lab colleagues who’ve diligently worked hard for our patients during the pandemic. With great skill and speed, they’ve met the extraordinary demand for COVID-19 testing while simultaneously performing and interpreting tests that diagnose everything from cancer to high cholesterol.  

Group of lab technicians wearing scrubs and face masks.
HCA Healthcare lab colleagues at Coliseum Medical Centers in Macon, Georgia provide the foundation for accurate and timely disease diagnosis, prevention and control.

HCA Healthcare is home to approximately 8,900 clinical laboratory professionals, including 7,000 serving in our hospitals and another 1,900 working at affiliate Integrated Regional Laboratories in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Often behind the scenes, our HCA laboratory colleagues are essential to delivering the right information at the right time to drive diagnostic and therapeutic decisions for patients.

“Even before the pandemic, our medical laboratory professionals were working tirelessly, often in the background, to deliver clinical insights that enable our physicians and providers the critical information they need to make informed decisions about our patients,” says Joanne Trout, president of laboratory services at HCA Healthcare. “They use state-of-the-art technologies to help drive the best possible clinical outcomes for our patients.”

“As we pause to salute our pathologists, medical technologists and technicians, phlebotomists and laboratory assistants during Lab Week, we keep in mind all that you have done in this past year, in the foreground protecting others. You are indispensable partners in providing patient-centered care, improving health outcomes and overall public health. Thank you for being there for all of us.”

Joanne Trout, president of laboratory services at HCA Healthcare

As of April 2021, HCA Healthcare lab colleagues have performed more than 2.5 million COVID-19 tests across our organization – a testament to their commitment, professionalism and solidarity throughout the pandemic. At the peak of the pandemic, our lab colleagues processed close to 12,000 COVID-19 tests in one day.

Group of lab technicians wearing scrubs and face masks outside hospital.
Integrated Regional Laboratory colleagues at a COVID-19 testing fair in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“Many of these tests were labor intensive but also a constant struggle to keep specimens stabile before getting to the next patient in need,” explained Dr. Heather Signorelli, vice president and chief laboratory services officer at HCA Healthcare. “While the ever-changing landscape of COVID has slowed, laboratorians continue to be the heart of the COVID testing response all while also maintaining high quality, rapid results for hundreds of other tests.”

Dr. Signorelli was also quick to point out the vital role that HCA Healthcare’s phlebotomy team played in the response. “Our phlebotomy teams tirelessly suited up in their PPE to continue to provide excellent patient care and compassion within the facilities,” she explained. “We are proud to work with such a dedicated team of laboratorians and pathologists who have spent the last year working more than ever to take care of HCA Healthcare patients and healthcare workers.”

Thank you to all the laboratory professionals across HCA Healthcare for your ongoing contributions to patient care. As we celebrate Lab Week, meet a few laboratory heroes below…

Rebecca Sturgis, St. David’s Medical Center

Woman wearing white lab coat and face mask holding a vial of blood for testing.
Rebecca Sturgis, medical technologist at St. David’s Medical Center

Rebecca Sturgis has been a medical technologist at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas for five years. She fell in love with the idea of helping others, even if it was behind the scenes, and so she decided to pursue a career as a lab professional.

“You can gather so much information about a person’s health by analyzing their blood and other bodily fluids,” Rebecca explains. “Being able to provide those test results to the doctor so they can treat the patient appropriately makes me feel like I’m making a difference in someone’s life.”

On a daily basis, Rebecca promptly processes, prioritizes, analyzes and accurately gives results for samples as they come in – a workflow that evolved with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Each day was a challenge during the onset in that all the sample requirements and testing methods were brand new and constantly changing as the virus progressed,” said Rebecca. “In order to keep up, I had to be flexible with the processes and quickly adapt to them while remaining diligent. We remained poised in the laboratory and took on our new priority – diagnosing COVID patients so they could be cared for appropriately.”

April Shields, Swedish Medical Center

Woman wearing scrubs.
April Shields, hematology technical coordinator at Swedish Medical Center

April Shields has been at HCA Healthcare for more than two decades. After starting in medical records, she found she was more interested in what happens to human body at a microscopic level and now works in the lab as a hematology technical coordinator at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colorado.

April says, “It was remarkably interesting to me how something so small as an antibody could have such a profound effect on a human health from life to death. I like to be able to work behind the scenes as part of a team to provide one more piece of the puzzle so that patients can be better taken care of.”

Her responsibilities include running and repairing more than 12 different instruments to analyze and record patient results – a role that became increasingly important with the influx on COVID-19 tests over the last year.

“The team I work with stepped up in so many ways to help process the thousands of extra tests to be collected and run along with getting products in for treatment of COVID-19 and finding different ways and supplies to continue our normal tests with supply chains being disrupted,” said April “I am proud to be a part of this team and the hospital I work for because of all that they have done over the last year along and for everything they do for our patients and the community in general before, during and in the future.”

Nancy Maldonado, Mission Health

Woman wearing scrubs.
Nancy Maldonado, medical laboratory technician at Mission Hospital Ambulatory Laboratory

Nancy Maldonado is a medical laboratory technician at HCA Healthcare affiliate Mission Hospital Ambulatory Laboratory in North Carolina. She was inspired to pursue this as her career after getting her blown drawn in middle school and seeing how such a small specimen could provide information for a patient to receive results and treatment.

“As a medical laboratory technician, I am constantly learning to develop my skills,” explains Nancy. She notes the following skills have been key to helping her succeed in her role as a lab technician:

  • Efficiency
  • Organization
  • Maintaining a positive attitude
  • Assisting with conflict resolution
  • Responsibility
  • Attention to details
  • Clear communication with patients, co-workers and medical providers

“These skills have helped me perform my job duties and have the capability to learn new information,” explains Nancy.

Woman wearing white lab coat and face mask sitting in front of a microscope.
Halee Ritzel, medical laboratory scientist at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center

Halee Ritzel, a medical laboratory scientist, began working at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in September 2020 after recently graduating from college. While some might find starting their career during a pandemic to be overwhelming, Halee has found it to be an exciting experience.

“This field demands critical thinking skills, flexibility, time management, and problem solving,” explains Halee. “Being a recent graduate I was nervous to start working in a lab during the peak of the pandemic. However, I’ve found the fast pace and always changing environment to be one of the best learning opportunities I could’ve asked for.”

She continues, “This past year has been an absolute roller coaster. It has taught me that I’m capable of so much more than I ever gave myself credit for.”

A group of lab technicians wearing scrubs and face masks.
HCA Healthcare lab colleagues at Lee’s Summit Medical Center in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 186 hospitals and more than 2,000 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our approximately 275,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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