Staff Sgt. Steven Romel, 2nd Medical Support Squadron hematology NCO in charge, inspects and prepares blood samples for testing on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., June 19. The integrated chemistry machine tests the blood's content for the proper chemicals and blood cell count. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Moua)(RELEASED)
Staff Sgt. Steven Romel, 2nd Medical Support Squadron hematology NCO in charge, draws blood from a patient on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., June 19. Once the blood is drawn, it is sent through a centrifuge to seperate the blood's contents and tested to determine if there is anything abnormal with the patient.(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Moua)(RELEASED)
by Airman 1st Class Andrew Moua
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
7/2/2012 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La.-- -- Thousands of Airmen, dependents and retirees visit the base clinic every day. Most only see the waiting room or the patient's room, however more work goes on in the laboratory long after a patient has left.
The 2nd Medical Support Squadron laboratory draws blood, obtains urine samples or throat swabs when requested by a doctor. These samples can help determine if a patient is afflicted by a disease or other illness.
"A doctor will send orders to us that a patient is coming to get their blood drawn," said Tech. Sgt. Terrence Raybon, 2 MDSS medical laboratory technician. "A doctor might request blood work or a urine sample or give us a throat-swab to analyze. With these, we help find out what is causing their patient's illness so he or she can narrow down what they can do to find a cure."
When a patient arrives at the lab for a blood test, a technician draws their blood and runs it through a series of machines, such as a centrifuge to separate the blood's contents. Technicians can then test red and white blood cell count, iron levels, or find something in the blood that doesn't belong.
"We check for all sorts of things once we have a blood sample," Raybon said. "We mostly look to see if the red and white blood cell count is normal, we look at the shape of the cells and look for any abnormalities that could be causing the patient to be ill. If we find something abnormal we'll put some of it on a slide and take a closer look under a microscope."
If a urinalysis is required, the lab can retrieve a sample from a patient to determine what is in the urine to narrow down all possible outcomes on a diagnosis.
"A urinalysis mostly covers kidney functions," said Raybon. "Most people think about drug testing when they hear urinalysis, but what we do here is different. We might run a urinalysis alongside a blood test for illnesses or check to see if the kidneys are functioning correctly."
Throat swabs are tested differently than a blood or urine sample. Once received, the swab is put into an incubator where humidity, temperature, oxygen and even light are controlled. The technicians then wait to see what grows to determine what the patient is sick with.
Medical laboratory Airmen attend technical school for approximately 15 months which includes six months of classwork and initial training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and nine months of on-the-job training at a larger clinic where they receive hands-on experience. The tech school's length is due to the delicate equipment they must learn to use as well as acquiring expertise and knowledge of the human anatomy.
"During their time as students, the Airmen learn pretty much everything they'll need to know about medical equipment and physiology within 15 months," said Raybon. "We need them to be as proficient and skillful as possible."
The medical laboratory ensures that Team Barksdale is in top shape.
"We don't fly, we don't do any of that stuff," Raybon said. "But if a pilot is away, we assure him that his family is taken care of, allowing him to put his mind at ease and focus on the mission. That way Airmen are clear headed and focused, and without us, the mission could take a turn for the worse."