The clinical laboratory in a hospital runs tests on patients that pertain to the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases. Although the laboratory is within the hospital, it generally does other testing aside from tests conducted for the hospital. Other clinics, private practice doctors and medical facilities will send their clinical specimens to hospitals for analysis.
Departments versus Zones
Many hospitals have broken down their clinical labs into two departments: anatomic pathology and clinical pathology. Within these two main departments, there can be over a dozen sub-departments including microbiology, toxicology and genetics. This is a basic standard setup that many countries still use in the design of hospitals.
Researchers have concluded that it is time to move away from the standard department design, and that hospitals should move toward a zone concept, according to an article from InformeDesign. This zone concept separates the laboratory into three different areas: highly flexible, semi-flexible and least flexible. The highly flexible zone does most of the routine lab work and is located in the middle area of the lab. Surrounding this area is the semi-flexible zone, which consists of esoteric and semi-automated testing. The outer perimeter is the space in which the least flexible zone lies. It is the administration offices and its location is designed not disrupt laboratory work flow.
In order to be successful, a clinical lab requires several people with varying skill sets. Clinical laboratory scientists, or medical technologists, work to detect, diagnose and treat many diseases. They perform tests and crunch data on blood, tissue and other bodily fluids. They may work in the hematology, microbiology or immunohematology areas of the lab.
Pathologists look over the data that has been tested and decide what the best course of action is for the individual patient. Phlebotomists draw blood and perform basic testing to prepare the specimen for the lab.
Other positions, such as histotechnicians and cytotechnologists, may be on staff depending on the needs of the hospital.
The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) provides further information about these types of professions on their website.
The clinical laboratory is changing constantly to meet the needs of technology and individual patient care. Some hospitals are now implementing satellite labs throughout their infrastructure. These mini-labs place quick testing areas next to emergency or surgical areas for faster processing and diagnosis.