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Medical Laboratory
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Dennis Wold, Fairview Southdale Hospital medical laboratory scientist, interacts with myriad care team members throughout a workday, such as Brittany Stranik, medical laboratory scientist.

Each job, every day: Medical laboratory scientist

On the surface, it seems that medical laboratory professionals simply test blood—but in reality, the complex tests they perform on blood, body fluids and tissue are vital to Fairview’s mission of improving the lives of the communities we serve.

“We have a huge impact on patient care,” says Dennis Wold, medical laboratory scientist at Fairview Southdale Hospital.

“About 75 percent of the objective data in our medical record is generated as a result of clinical laboratory testing. Medical decisions, diagnoses and treatments are based on the interpretation of the tests we do.”


What they do
A medical laboratory professional can work in hospital and clinic laboratory departments such as chemistry, hematology, coagulation, microbiology or the blood bank. Under each of these areas are further specializations, including (but not limited to):
  • a parasitology lab that works to detect blood parasites;
  • an endocrinology lab that studies hormone levels;
  • cytologists, who help diagnose cancer by studying individual cells’ appearance;
  • genetic testing;
  • histologists, who focus on tissue; and
  • HLA testing (human leukocyte antigen testing for bone marrow) and molecular diagnostics, crucial in supporting our transplant population.

Dennis is certified in all specialty areas, but his passion is working in the blood bank.

“We can provide therapy, as well as help clinicians diagnose and treat,” Dennis says. “A lot of times, we'll come in contact with interesting patients for whom finding the right blood is difficult and testing is very complex.”

Dennis says laboratory scientists also serve as advocates for their patients.

“We can detect when duplicate orders are placed, so the patient doesn't get drawn and charged again unnecessarily—we protect the patient that way,” Dennis says. “For a lot of tests, we compare the results to previous results; we'll catch discrepancies or results that don't quite make sense. A lot of times, the lab can detect them first, and involve other members of the care team.”


Why they do it
Dennis says he loves feeling like a crucial part of a patient’s care team.

“I think providing high-quality laboratory services goes hand-in-hand with Fairview providing the best health care for patients; they are one in the same,” he says. “I like being able to make a real impact on the lives of the patients we serve.”

He remembers one patient who had spent three months in Africa and came in the Fairview Southdale Emergency Department with a 105-degree temperature. The laboratory performed the some blood tests and determined she had malaria; Dennis communicated those results to the ED physician; anti-malarial therapy was started immediately.

“A pathologist later confirmed our findings, but malaria, if left untreated, can be fatal. If we had missed those results, the patient might not have gotten therapy,” he says.


Learn more about laboratory careers at Fairview.
 
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