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Lab techs provide vital info in patient care

USNS COMFORT (Port-au-Prince, Haiti) -- (Editor's note: Airman First Class Grannan is assigned to the 55th Wing public affairs office and currently deployed with the USNS Comfort in support of Continuing Promise 2009) 

Hospital Ship USNS Comfort is deployed on a four month humanitarian mission that offers medical treatment to locals in all seven countries it visits as part of Continuing Promise 2009. An integral and vital part of that medical treatment is the support of the laboratory staff on board. 

The ship offers locals 250 patient beds, four operating rooms, X-ray machines, computed tomography scanners, a pharmacy, dental suites, and physical therapy among other services. But in order for anyone to benefit from these programs, doctors need the help of the ship's laboratory technicians to diagnose the patients. 

"We take the samples the doctors send and test them for coagulation or blood clotting, enzymes, hormones, electrolytes, etc.," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Philip Dukette, a laboratory technician aboard Comfort. "We do chemistry testing, hematology, urinalysis and micro-biology. On an average day, I would say we do testing for about 100 patients." 

These kinds of tests may seem common place or even routine to some people, but the results and the technicians who perform the tests are vital to effective patient care. 

"I think my job is one of the most important parts of patient care because it tells you the current status of a patient," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Liliana Dominguez, a radiology technician onboard Comfort. "Without the lab work, I don't think the doctor would have a very good idea of what's wrong." 

This laboratory prepared for the ship's arrival to Haiti by preparing samples of some of the organisms the technicians might see in patients. 

Laboratory technicians may seem removed from the doctor/patient relationship, but their product provides the doctor the proper direction to follow. 

"Even though I don't get to have that face-to-face interaction with the patients, I feel that I'm still providing for them by being able to notify the doctor about the test results, enabling the doctor to make the best choice in that patient's care," said Petty Officer Dominguez. 

Continuing Promise 2009 is a four month humanitarian and civic assistance mission that provides support programs afloat and ashore in seven countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in an equal partnership between the United States and its international partners. The ship offers locals 250 patient beds, four operating rooms, X-ray machines, CT scanners, a pharmacy, dental suites, and physical therapy among other services.