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Interview: Life In The Lab

We have an extremely well-equipped laboratory onsite at Pride Veterinary Centre with a dedicated team. It has a wide range of equipment enabling bacteriological, biochemical and haematological investigations to be undertaken.

We interview Emma Davies, Victoria Snape and Olivia Moore from our lab team to get an idea of what life is like in the lab.

Can you explain what the lab does/how having an onsite lab is beneficial to us?

There are three main areas of the lab the first one being the blood section and that includes biochemistry, haematology, immunoassays and endocrinology.

The second is microbiology which tends to include routine urine and faecal samples. As well as milk and calf scours samples from the Markeaton practice and equine worm egg count samples.

The third aspect is the admin side of the lab which includes external lab samples being logged, packaged, sent out and results being attached to client records. They also check the pricing and invoicing of the tests that are performed, and this precaution saves mischarging.

Last year the lab introduced an information management system called Lims and this helps to track inhouse and external samples, it is also useful in sending results and tests instantly which speeds up turnaround time. This system also helps the lab be more efficient and can help cancel out the chance of human error in manual inputting of data.

All three members of the team rotate around each of the different areas so that everyone gets a chance to work on a variety of things.

Having the lab onsite is very beneficial to Pride Veterinary Centre as it means that the speed of results is fast. Being a referral centre it means that diagnosis can be done as soon as possible and therefore we can treat the animal straight away.

The lab team also train up nurses and the OOH team so that they can do routine tests such as bloods to increase productivity throughout the whole hospital and the practices.

What facilities/equipment do you have?

We run haematology samples on an IDEXX Procyte which offers a comprehensive 5-part differential.  These results are backed up by examination of a blood smear down the microscope by a trained veterinary diagnostic technician.  Results can be available in as little as 5 minutes which is extremely beneficial for very sick animals and pre-check bloods for chemotherapy treatment.

Our biochemistry samples are analysed using a 'wet' chemistry system supplied by Randox Diagnostic laboratories based in Northern Ireland.  This system is capable of running 180 tests/hour using an extremely small sample of blood.  We have a comprehensive panel of tests available.

Last year we invested in an endocrinology analyser to support our existing suite of diagnostic equipment which is capable of T4 analysis along with cortisol.  We anticipate the addition of Progesterone onto our menu this year which will be of benefit to dog breeders in our community.

All our analysers undergo robust quality assurance checks both internally and externally, comparing with a large population of other labs and testing platforms worldwide.  This ensures we maintain measura

What support does the lab offer for the hospital? (referral patients)

Having the lab onsite means that the referral clinicians can see first-hand what the lab are doing and therefore they can work together to get the best outcome and fast results for the patient.

Since the lab moved from the Markeaton practice to Pride Veterinary Centre they are able to do the vast majority of routine tests inhouse whereas previously over around 50% were done externally.

The lab is continuously looking to bring new tests in house that are currently being sent away.

How do you ensure reliability/quality control?

The lab team track and run three levels of quality control on the majority of analysers on a daily basis this means that the team know if there are any errors and therefore if they need to intervene.

The lab has also extended their opening hours and are open 8-6pm on weekdays and 8:30-12:30 on Saturday to enable more tests to be carried out.

There are also monthly lab meetings with clinicians from the referral team which enables them to talk through any issues that might be happening in order to make the lab as reliable and dependable as possible. Therefore, this means there is a constant communication between the lab and the vets which helps the whole process run smoothly.

How quickly do you get test results back?

All tests get done the same day they come in, the average time that results come back depends on the urgency of the test.

  • Routine tests for example, blood screens: around 3-6 hours
  • Urgent for critically ill patients: within the hour
  • STAT (crashed patients): within half an hour
  • Chemo tests: 10 minutes as these need to be a really quick turn around
  • Pre-general anaesthetic: within the hour
  • On average the lab receives 1400 test requests per month.

Broken down into some of our most popular profiles; they receive an average of 270 requests for full profiles, 90 requests for full haematology, 130 requests for full urinalysis and 20 requests for full faecal analysis per month.

Can you explain what you are doing to help the environmental issues? Why are you doing this? How is this a success?

As the lab use a lot of disposable plastic, they wanted to do something to help change this. So, last year the lab began their ‘Save the Sea turtles’ campaign which was about reducing the amount of plastic used in the lab and consequently helping to keep it out of the sea, so wildlife isn’t affected.

The way they did this began by looking at the way urine samples are taken. For example, a urine sample is taken in a plastic sterile syringe and what the lab were getting the vets to do was put this into a plastic sterile pot after. However, now they submit the samples in the syringe, and this therefore reduces the amount of plastic used by half.

If the pots unused were stacked on top of one another it would be the same height as the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil which is 38m tall!

The lab's keen interest in helping the environment led to them winning the Green Initiative Award at the Scarsdale Vets 2018 Christmas awards.

In 2019 they are continuing to cut down on plastic as well as looking at other ways they can be green. The big thing the lab are trying to do is to go paperless and the new LIMS system will help with this and avoid using paper submission forms (they are currently trialling this in the lab to see if it will be successful).

Olivia topped off the year of going green when she went on holiday to Cape Verde and adopted a turtle called Squirt in November 2018, on behalf of everyone at Pride Veterinary Centre!

What do you enjoy most about working in the lab?

The lab team work closely with one another and have the chance to meet the clinicians in the hospital which means they feel more involved with the process of treating the animals.

Emma explained, “It’s also nice to be able to walk around the hospital and see the animals that you are helping as this puts into perspective what you are actually doing in the lab. And it’s nice to see that the tests you are doing are helping these animals in one way or another. It’s really lovely to put a face to the sample and the name.”