Teamwork makes testing process possible at McPherson Hospital

 

By Jessie Wagoner

 

There is a good deal of talk about COVID-19 testing, but for Amber Clark, director of laboratory services at McPherson Hospital, and her staff, COVID-19 testing requires less talk and more action. 

All of the tests conducted on McPherson County residents are processed through McPherson Hospital by laboratory services. With nearly 1,500 tests conducted already, the lab staff is staying incredibly busy.

As of Aug. 11, Clark and the lab team have processed a total of 1,453 samples for COVID testing. Of those tests, 1,144 have been for persons under investigation for COVID, and the remainder have been for pre-op, facility placements or other reasons. July has been the busiest month so far, with 460 samples processed in July alone. 

“Our biggest day on record was 67 samples processed in one day,” Clark said. “Time is our biggest barrier with testing. There are a lot of steps that we have to take in the lab when we receive a sample.” 

When testing first began, lab staff would collect the samples themselves, do the necessary paperwork for each sample, which includes completing reportable disease forms for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), document patient information for internal reports and then package the samples to go out to Quest for the actual testing. 

Lab staff is also responsible for verifying and releasing test results, notifying the health department of those positive results, as well as documenting all positive and negative results. All of these steps occur in addition to the normal work load of lab staff. No additional staff has been hired to assist with COVID testing. 

As the pandemic has continued, the lab has changed their processes over time. Now, instead of lab staff collecting all the samples, staff at urgent care has been trained, and they are now able to collect samples as well.

“We have looked at our processes over and over and gradually refined them so that now it takes less time,” Clark said. “There are always ways to improve the process, and we work so well together as a team that it becomes easier and easier every day.”

The teamwork involved to make the testing process efficient involves the efforts of many different groups. The hospital lab works closely with urgent care staff, the McPherson Health Department, KDHE, primary care doctors, Quest and others. Clark says her lab staff has “rolled with the changes” and adapted to meet the needs of patients. While Clark has received a great deal of praise from community partners for the calmness and efficiency she has displayed throughout the COVID-19 response, she says it is a team effort and she is surrounded by good teammates.

“I work with an awesome team throughout the hospital—everyone from senior leadership, who are always supportive, to environmental services, material management, nursing, ER, RT, radiology, admissions, Erica Selzer and her awesome team at urgent care, providers, and the relationship that we have with Shalei Shae and her awesome staff at the McPherson County Health Department,” Clark said. “I’m sure I have missed someone. Each department works so well together to make sure that through the craziness our patients are getting taken care of.”

Patient care is the top priority for Clark and her staff. Even in the midst of high testing days, when time is against them, lab staff remains calm and focused on patients. 

“The patients are anxious already about having to be tested, and it is important to keep them comfortable and informed of what we are doing,” Clark said. 

While all samples are currently being sent to Quest for testing, Clark is optimistic they will soon be able to do on-site testing, at least for some of the samples. For the time being, staff will continue to process samples and work closely with Quest to gather the results.

 

The McPherson Hospital lab has processed 1,453 samples for COVID testing as of Aug. 11. The most samples processed in a day were 67 samples. Here is a breakdown of how many samples have been processed each month.

 

March—74 samples

April—171 samples

May—195 samples

June—402 samples

July—460 samples

August—151 samples