Inside a Hospital Lab

What exactly goes on in a hospital laboratory? What happens to your blood samples, how can doctors decipher if you are sick or not, and who works there? OCH lab technician Tina Miller shares about the intricate procedure and processes of a hospital lab through her narrative, “A Day in the Life of Randy the Random Specimen.” Tina’s account details the journey of a special specimen as he travels through the lab and endures many tests. Read below to find out more. Happy Lab Week!

Hello there! My name is Randy, or rather “Random Blood Specimen,” and I am here to tell you about my adventure through a hospital laboratory.

Just this morning, as I was trying to get back to the heart via a vein for another ride through the arteries, it happened! Something popped into the vein and started sucking me up into some weird tubes. I guess my human was sick and needed to be tested.

Once I arrived at the lab, the real fun began. Lab techs stuck some of me in a dark machine that spun me around really, really fast (you’ll find out what happened to the rest that wasn’t spun a little later). After spinning, all of the solid parts of me ended up at the bottom of the tube and the liquid was on top. Some of the tubes even had a gel so the solid and liquid parts of me couldn’t join back together.  

That’s when I found out more about those weird “tubes.”

Some of the tubes that sucked me out of my human were supposed to change what the liquid portion of me would be. The big difference was in what is called the “liquid portion of the blood.” This is because the fibrinogen (clotting factors) had reacted and was then pulled out of the liquid and stuck down in the cells. You see, when you get a cut your fibrin, platelets, and other clotting factors are what bundle up close together to form a scab over your cut to stop you from bleeding. Inside a tube, however, fibrinogen forms what is called a clot, and it sinks to the bottom all mixed up with red and white blood cells leaving the liquid portion of the blood on the top. This is the serum.

Other tubes sucking stuff out of my human didn’t allow me to clot (also known as plasma because it still has all the platelets and fibrin stuff still swimming around in it). Turns out, not all plasma is the same! The lab techs kept talking about at least three types: citrate plasma, heparinized plasma, and EDTA plasma (depending on what preservative was in the tube itself). The different preservatives in the tubes mixed with my blood and allowed for different tests to be performed on me.

After this, one of the lab techs began separating some of my serum into containers. These would be sent off to other lab locations. Who knew I would get the opportunity to travel to so many places! As for the rest of me, I was separated and sent off to several different departments.

Some of me went to be tested for sicknesses such as Mononucleosis, H. Pylori and HIV. Other tubes were sent to a department called Chemistry. The Chemistry department helped determine whether or not my kidneys, liver and other organs were functioning properly.

The last section of me (the part that wasn’t spun around in the dark machine) was placed in a different machine that counted all my cells. Pretty neat, huh? Once counted, a lab tech smeared me on to a glass slide to be reviewed under a microscope. It’s not fun, but it’s important. Lab techs had to look at me really closely to determine whether or not I had an infection. They also wanted to determine whether or not my human was anemic or needed more blood.

All in all, it was a pretty busy day. I got to travel all over and meet a lot of really neat lab technicians. I’m sure I’ll be back, though. Lab tests play a vital part in determining my human’s diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.

See you again soon!

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