Lab Works Behind the Scenes to Provide Life-Saving Care
Cheyenne Regional’s Laboratory (Lab) managers are extremely proud of the work they do and the many significant contributions the Lab and its employees make toward improving and saving lives—and rightly so!
Cheyenne Regional’s is the largest reference lab in Wyoming, processing more than 2 million samples per year for the hospital and the Lab’s outpatient customers, which include medical clinics in Cheyenne and the surrounding region and several government agencies and private organizations throughout Wyoming.
“Our focus is on providing high-quality, accurate lab services in support of outstanding patient care, be it within the hospital, a medical clinic or an outside organization,” said Bev Alden, the Lab’s Director.
“Most of the employees here largely do their work behind closed doors,” noted Chanteé Stewart, the Lab’s Phlebotomy Supervisor. “But what our Lab does determines a lot of what happens to patients. Our work is vitally important to their outcomes.”
Studies show that more than 70 percent of medical decisions are based on lab results, and it’s predicted that up to 85 percent of medical decisions will be based on lab results in the not-to-distant future, as new and better lab tests and technology become available, Lab Manager Kerry Ruadil said.
Given the importance of lab tests on medical decisions and patient outcomes, Alden emphasized that Cheyenne Regional’s Lab takes its role in helping people extremely seriously.
Every day the Lab conducts tests that can make a critical difference in someone’s medical treatment and, ultimately, life.
“We are proud of the work we do and the life-saving difference we make every day,” Alden said.
Extensive Array of Services Offered
Cheyenne Regional’s Lab offers 1,500 competitively priced tests and turnaround times that are generally less than 24 hours. In addition, more than 97 percent of tests are performed onsite.
As part of its focus on quality and safety, the Lab partners with ARUP Laboratories, a national clinical reference lab and a worldwide leader in laboratory research and development. Through this partnership, the Cheyenne Regional Lab has access to an extensive database of information, including educational material, disease management strategies and test utilization.
The Cheyenne Regional Lab also provides the following specialized services:
- Health screening blood draws at its Outpatient Draw Center (Mon-Fri; 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; walk-ins accepted)
- Therapeutic phlebotomies (by appointment only)
- Sweat collection testing (by appointment only)
- Collections for chain-of-custody drug screens
- Pre-employment and post-accident drug screens
- Legal blood alcohol draws for the Cheyenne Police Department, Wyoming Highway Patrol and Laramie County Sheriff’s Department
“We continue to look for opportunities to grow and to find ways to better serve the needs of our community, region and state,” Alden said.
Commitment to Quality, Best Patient Care
The Lab has gone through several changes through the years. In 2000, after being owned and managed by two private companies and operating off campus, the Lab was acquired by the hospital.
With support from hospital administration, the Lab has been able to purchase what Alden calls “the latest and greatest” technology, allowing it to keep pace with the demand for new and better testing capabilities.
Lab purchases over the past few years include new analyzers to test for hepatitis and thyroid conditions and a molecular analyzer that sequences DNA as part of determining if an infection is bacterial or viral.
Within the last few weeks, the Lab has also acquired an “automated blood bank” that allows for much faster blood typing analysis.
“Having state-of-the-art equipment is a major reason why we can offer so many kinds of tests and also such fast turnaround times,” Alden said. “It’s a vital part of our service.”
Another sign of the Lab’s commitment to quality and best patient care is its accreditation by the College of American Pathologists, the AABB (American Association of Blood Banks) and The Joint Commission.
The Lab also abides by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) of 1988, a federal lab quality and safety program overseen by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
“Being accredited by respected and reputable national organizations is another way we demonstrate our commitment to providing the very best care to our community and the best possible outcomes for our patients,” Alden said.
Lab Work: ‘Couldn’t Ask for More’
Alden, Ruadil and Stewart take great pride in the fact that the Lab has many long-term employees and that so many of its employees are passionate about their work.
Alden is a great example. She began working as a medical technologist at the local laboratory in 1984, shortly after graduating from college. That lab underwent several changes until United Medical Center (Cheyenne Regional Medical Center’s predecessor) brought it in-house in 2000.
Alden stayed with the Lab through all the changes—learning, gaining experience and taking on ever more responsibility. She was appointed Lab Director in 2013.
“Since I was 9 years old I knew I wanted to work with microscopes,” Alden explained. “Growing up as a child I lived down the street from a swamp. It was fascinating to me to be able to see the world that existed in a drop of swamp water.”
In college Alden discovered that medical technologists routinely use microscopes. She instantly knew that medical technology was the career for her.
Alden continues to be fascinated by microscopes and what she describes as “that whole other world” of microorganisms that microscopes bring into view.
As Alden talks, she pulls a small microscope that she received as a child from one of her office bookshelves. She keeps the microscope nearby as a reminder of her roots and passion.
“This is what I have always loved to do,” she said.
Ruadil is also a long-term Lab employee, having worked for Cheyenne Regional for nearly 11 years. Ruadil taught chemistry at a university for 10 years before coming to Cheyenne Regional as a generalist medical technologist. From there she became the Lab’s Chemistry Department Lead and was appointed Lab Manager in 2016.
“I really enjoy chemistry and microbiology testing and being able to identify microorganisms,” Ruadil said.
Stewart, who has been a phlebotomist with Cheyenne Regional for more than seven years, has found her niche as well: “I knew I wanted to work in a hospital and directly with patients. I can do both as a phlebotomist,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for more.”
Cheyenne Regional’s Lab has 72 employees who work in a variety of fields, including medical laboratory technician, medical laboratory technologist, laboratory assistant, phlebotomist, client service representative, lab courier, point of care technician and lab buyer.
The Lab also serves as a clinical orientation site for phlebotomy and medical technician students from Laramie County Community College and area technical schools.
“As a community hospital, part of our mission is to give back to our community. One way we do that is by providing training and internship opportunities to local students,” Ruadil said.
Stewart, as head of the phlebotomy staff, added that while much of the Lab’s work takes place behind closed doors, there are opportunities for those who want patient interaction.
The Lab’s 27 phlebotomists perform the blood draws at the hospital and several outpatient locations throughout Cheyenne. Each day they see about 100 to 130 hospital inpatients and another 65 to 75 outpatients.
“We are the ‘face’ of the Lab, interacting with patients in every area of the hospital, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day,” Stewart noted.
For some, the Lab also serves as an important stepping stone.
“Quite a few of our employees have gone on to become doctors, nurses, physician assistants and medical assistants,” Alden said. She is OK with that.
“Our responsibility is to provide outstanding customer service, a caring attitude and accurate and timely results. That is a good lesson for anyone—especially someone working in the medical field—to learn,” Alden said.