MIAMI VALLEY — Many current students and alumni of Edison State Community College have been deemed essential in this unprecedented global pandemic. From being employed as registered nurses, phlebotomists, and medical laboratory technicians, to working in the agricultural, grocery store, and foodservice industries, the appreciation for the critical work they’re performing continues to grow exponentially.
While many are working in front line positions, students and alumni of Edison State’s medical laboratory technician (MLT) program are working behind the scenes to perform complex laboratory testing and experimental treatment in internship experiences and on the job.
Payton Amstutz, of Wapakoneta, is an MLT student at Edison State who is currently interning at St. Rita’s Hospital in Lima. Beginning last Wednesday, St. Rita’s went live with COVID-19 testing, giving Amstutz first-hand experience with the testing method.
“Overall, the COVID-19 testing method has been an ever-changing whirlwind. Our policies have been changing not only by the day, but often by the hour. Currently, we are still sending tests out to reference labs and the Ohio Department of Health,” said Amstutz.
Rapid changes to testing methods are not the only challenge healthcare facilities are facing. Access to the reagents, or substances and mixtures used in chemical analysis, needed to perform the testing are also challenging to obtain.
“Our Microbiology team was able to validate a testing method that only takes 15 minutes to run. However, it is very difficult to acquire reagents for the testing as it is in very high demand. The pathologists have decided to conserve our in-house tests as much as possible by only using it for in-patients and employees who were exposed. We are hoping to be able to continue this testing and expand our patient base if the reagents become more readily available,” said Amstutz.
Edison State alumnus Taylor Kolker has been able to apply knowledge from his degree while working for CompuNet Clinical Laboratories in blood transfusion services at Miami Valley Hospital. Kolker, of West Milton, is participating in the experimental treatment of transfusing convalescent plasma to patients suffering from an active viral infection.
Convalescent plasma is a blood product that comes from patients with previously confirmed cases of COVID-19 and can contain antibodies against the A and B antigens found on red blood cells in addition to the antibodies against the virus. So, it’s important that compatible plasma be utilized.
“In a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic, convalescent plasma transfusions are allowing patients to benefit from the immune systems of previously infected donors,” said Kolker. “While this is not the cure to COVID-19, it gives patients in critical condition the best possible chance of overcoming the infection until the development of a vaccine can be completed.”
While the experimental treatment is a work in progress, medical laboratory technicians like Kolker are hopeful it will provide a solution.
“The use of convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID-19 has been a work in progress the past couple weeks. While convalescent plasma was previously used to treat a variety of conditions (such as Ebola in recent years), it is not a commonly used product in the traditional hospital setting. Because of this, we have been working together closely with the Dayton Community Blood Center, the Miami Valley Hospital research team, the Mayo Clinic, and the FDA in order to establish an appropriate set of protocols for the transfusion of this product,” said Kolker.
“It is not a perfect treatment, and it often works differently depending on the recipient. However, it has shown a great deal of promise with giving patients the edge their immune system needs to fight off the virus more effectively.”
“The world of medicine is still full of questions when it comes to COVID-19, but convalescent plasma transfusions have been a ray of hope for patients and their families in these times of uncertainty, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.”
The week of April 19-25, 2020, is recognized as 44th annual Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, which aims to increase public understanding of and appreciation for clinical laboratory personnel.