You may not know who we are or see what we do, but the parking lot “mobile testing centers” for COVID-19 pandemic is not us. These are “specimen collection” centers, not “testing centers.” Health care professionals are collecting your samples, but the actual testing is done in a laboratory by a medical laboratorian. Did you know that we have college degrees, many with masters or doctorate degrees? We have studied specialized topics: clinical chemistry, molecular virology, immunohematology, clinical Informatics, hematology, thrombolytic evaluation, immunohistochemistry, pharmacogenomics, mycology, and parasitology. We take a board exam and in North Dakota, we are licensed.

When a patient specimen comes into the clinical laboratory, we don’t just “push a button” and the answer comes out. We use expensive sophisticated analyzers, but we also do complex manual testing that required years of scientific study to develop. We use interpretive skills identifying bacteria causing an infection, or cells involved in the immune response or leukemia. We have troubleshooting skills in order to ensure accurate and valid test results.

If a test takes hours/days/weeks to perform, that is truly how long it takes. We give your specimen the fullest attention. You are not just a swab or a blood sample to us. We communicate regularly on highly technical scientific matters with the state department of public health and/or the CDC or other reference centers.

We love science and want to serve the scientific needs of our patients however they enter the health care system. You may not know we are there, but we are part of the healthcare team. A team of dedicated professionals.

We are the testing, we are the laboratory scientists, we are there for you.

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Linda Ray, a faculty member at UND, is president of the American Society of Clinical Laboratory Science-North Dakota.