Northwell Health Labs has been at the forefront of innovative care before and during COVID-19. Our labs quickly established itself as a leader in processing COVID-19 tests, being the first with manual tests, and later automated testing processes. As the fight against COVID-19 evolves, so does the work of our laboratory teams. Today their focus has shifted to include antibody testing, a test that allows patients to see if they previously had the novel coronavirus.
To perform these vital tests for our communities, our laboratory team members have been working in new ways. Former laboratory technologists have volunteered to return to the floor to help meet increased testing volume while our phlebotomists have been working outside the labs at COVID-19 testing sites. The teamwork displayed has been endless as they work together behind the scenes to keep our communities safe and our clinicians informed.
Recognizing the needs in this unprecedented time, many lab professionals continue to go above and beyond to deliver care. Merissa Ashrafalli, a lab technologist in Diagnostic Immunology/Serology at Northwell Health’s Core Lab, even returned early from her paid family leave bonding time to help support the fight against the virus. “I returned early to help on the front lines during this critical time because my team needed me. Our patients are our priority. Many think of a specimen as just a sample, but that is someone’s family member.”
And her work in Serology has never been more vital as her team works to get COVID-19 samples processed in a timely manner while dealing with new testing platforms and new assay material. “Without our staff in Serology, testing could not happen,” says Merissa. “As a team we are all working and learning together in this fight.”
Serology professionals aren’t the only ones essential to the Northwell Labs. Phlebotomists play the important role of collecting the samples – the first step in getting a diagnosis so patients can receive the care they need. As part of the initial battle, phlebotomists like Amber LaGuerre, volunteered to work at the New Rochelle COVID-19 testing site, the first in the country.
“Being a part of the New Rochelle drive-thru was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says Amber. “I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer because I knew it was my way to rise to the occasion and make a difference in this pandemic.” As the first testing site, the work of Amber and the other team members changed daily to ensure their testing would be as accurate as possible as the nation’s knowledge of the disease grew. It was their dedication, ability to adapt, and skills that helped make the site a success.
While Amber’s time at the testing site may have ended, she’s still working tirelessly to help patients get the care they need. As a phlebotomist with LabFly, Northwell’s mobile app that lets patients schedule blood draws at home, she’s bringing the testing process directly to our patients. “I know the work I’m doing is impactful no matter the setting I’m placed in, whether it be a hospital, nursing home, or a patient’s home,” says Amber. “Patients are more at ease being tested at home and I’m glad that we’re able to offer the convenience of LabFly to make the testing process just a little more comforting in a time of such uncertainty.”
Though work of our laboratory teams continues to evolve during the pandemic, one thing remains consistent: these healthcare heroes should be proud of the vital role they’re serving in defeating COVID-19.
“I am prouder than ever to work with Northwell Labs because I’ve seen lab personnel finally be recognized beyond the organization for the work we do,” says Merissa. “It is in these times that those who work behind the scenes get the thanks that is needed.”
“It’s very humbling to know as a phlebotomist my work is directly combating the fight against COVID-19,” agrees Amber. “The amount of gratitude I receive not only from patients, but people on the street that see me in scrubs throughout my shift, is a daily reminder of why I chose to be in healthcare.”
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