BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- When the College of American Pathologists (CAP) inspection team showed up for an unannounced bi-annual inspection of Naval Hospital Bremerton's (NHB) Laboratory Department, they found more than just poised and prepared staff members in place.
The CAP Laboratory Accreditation Program deeming authority not only gave high marks as NHB's Laboratory achieved accreditation, but they also commented very favorably on the collective professionalism and practices routinely carried out by the department's staff members.
"It was a phenomenal inspection. The CAP inspectors spoke very highly of our outstanding staff and the procedures that are in place. The staff really do a remarkable job and they wowed the inspectors, who even took a few 'best practices' with them," said Capt. Jeffrey Bitterman, Naval Hospital Bremerton Commanding Officer.
The Laboratory accreditation, recognized by The Joint Commission and which can be also used to meet many other certification requirements, is a means of determining the technical competence of laboratories to perform specific types of testing, measurement and calibration.
"This was really a good validation for us and all that we do behind the scenes. It's always nice when an outside agency comes in to observe and evaluate. They see for themselves how well we accomplish our duties, follow good practices, and are compliant with all regulations," said Lt. Michael J. Messick, Jr., Laboratory Department Head.
The visiting CAP team was so impressed with one of the Laboratory's in-place protocols that they took a copy of it to showcase to others.
"Our quality control tracking system where we daily manage data has a functional standard that they really liked," Messick said, adding that despite the importance of the inspection, the NHB Laboratory has a history of always doing well.
"If we don't do well, we can get shut down. If that were to ever happen, we would then probably have to close the entire hospital, or at least severely curtail what we do here. That's how important the lab is to everything that we do for our patients," explained Messick.
There are 45 staff members assigned to the lab, comprised of naval officers, hospital corpsmen, federal employees and civilian contractors. Enlisted personnel are comprised of advanced medical laboratory technicians, histopathology technicians and cytology technicians assigned to NHB's main lab, Branch Health Clinic (BHC) Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, BHC Bangor, BHC Everett and Madigan Army Medical Center Armed Services Blood Bank Center.
The lab processed over 520,000 tests last year in-house with an additional 65,000 tests processed and sent to outside civilian and military reference labs. The routine lab testing performed includes complete blood counts, various chemistry tests, lipid screening, A1C test for diabetes, urinalysis, microbiology and anatomic pathology which includes pap smears and tissue exams such as biopsies.
"We support all the testing needed and actually do the bulk of the requests right here," Messick said.
Perhaps the most visible of the lab operations involves supporting the quarterly blood drive held at NHB in conjunction with the aforementioned Madigan Army Medical Center Armed Services Blood Bank Center. Approximately 25 units of blood are collected for each blood drive.
"Our own blood bank is super important. We have to have supplies on hand to keep delivering babies and keep performing surgeries," noted Messick.
The list of specific responsibilities handled by the technicians includes performing tests in chemistry, hematology, urinalysis, coagulation, immunohematology (blood banking), serology, histology and cytology; collating and verifying those test results and also certifying the authenticity for release to the health care providers.
Other areas of specialty include; phlebotomy (the act or practice of opening a vein by incision or puncture to remove blood as a therapeutic treatment); and microbiology (the branch of biology dealing with the structure, function, uses, and modes of existence of microscopic organisms); and pathology (the science or the study of the origin, nature, and clinical course of diseases).
NHB's Laboratory has also been fully accredited by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). It is also licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
With the CAP accreditation completed, the laboratory will continue to follow set hours for outpatient lab collection, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
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