Evin Kolb’s job as a medical technologist at Mercy’s Smith Glynn Callaway Laboratory plays an essential role in a patient’s health, but they rarely get to see the face behind the test results.
“Our profession is very behind the scenes,” Kolb says.
At a doctor’s office, patients might have a phlebotomist draw blood, leave a urine sample or see a nurse to have a throat or nasal cavity swabbed. These procedures generate specimens that are sent to a lab to be tested, which is where medical technologists come into play.
“If it weren’t for lab testing, physicians wouldn’t be able to diagnose certain illnesses,” Kolb says.
And this is big business. Kolb says according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70% of medical decisions depend on laboratory results, and 14 billion lab tests are ordered annually.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the role of medical technologists came to the forefront. The CDC reports over 145.3 million COVID-19 tests have been performed nationwide as of press time. All of this is happening alongside cutbacks at hospital systems, including Mercy, where 696 employees were impacted by layoffs and furloughs in May, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
“It’s no secret that COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the health care industry,” Kolb says.
She notes that several of her co-workers were redeployed to the hospital to assist with high-need areas like cleaning and ER services.
“We pulled together as a team and got the work done, despite our temporary decrease in staff,” Kolb says. “We knew that ultimately the patients come first. Their health and livelihood is our top priority.”
Despite the difficulty, the staffing shortages showcased Kolb’s ability to step up to a challenge. When her boss was furloughed, Kolb stepped in to complete many supervisory tasks.
“I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I did, and I learned a lot about myself in the process,” she says.
Although her work is behind the scenes, Kolb is there for every step of a patient’s health journey, noting that lab results guide a physician’s decisions for treatment plans.
“We may be the first to see leukemia developing in a patient, but we are also the first to see that the patient is recovering,” she says.
The impact early detection and diagnosis has on health outcomes is one of Kolb’s motivations to keep on top of continuing education and the latest laboratory practices.
“My professional motivation is simply to improve the health and well-being of our patients,” she says. “I feel that the work we do really makes an impact.”
Outside of the office, Kolb makes an impact in the lives of future medical laboratory technicians. She helps run the Valentine’s Day Bake Sale, which raises money for Mercy Health Foundation’s Force for Good, and funds a lab scholarship for an Ozarks Technical Community College lab tech student.
Personally, Kolb is an advocate for overall health and wellness. A fitness junkie who recently gave birth, she found herself lacking prenatal fitness resources.
“In the future, I would love to get involved in developing a program for pregnant women who are interested in exercising and staying fit throughout their pregnancy, all while staying safe and protecting their baby,” she says.
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