• Jalisa Foulds

Medical Lab Scientist Travels to Houston to serve for COVID19

March 16, 2020 I received the phone call from my recruiter, "We have a facility near Houston with a crisis need for med techs due to COVID-19." Just three days prior, President Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus outbreak as it spread rapidly across the United States. "Let me think about his and get back to you," I responded, thinking to myself, I was just in a grocery store check out line for nearly an hour gathering food and necessities.

At the time I was enjoying time off while "shopping" for a new assignment since my last contract ended about two weeks prior. After six assignments over the past three years, I've grown accustomed to the travel process; shopping for a new contract, phone interviewing, accepting an offer, moving to a new place, training, working, leaving, and repeating. Yes, it can definitely be overwhelming, not to mention tearful goodbyes! Travel healthcare is not for the faint of heart!

Later that morning I had a phone interview with one of the staff at the Houston hospital regarding the need for an experienced medical technologist (scientist) at one of their sister hospitals. With COVID ravaging the nation, Houston cases increasing, and Houston being the fifth largest metropolitan area in the U.S., the laboratory was taking measures to prepare for what we have been told has not yet reached the peak of pandemic. Clinical laboratory science has always been crucial in providing medical diagnostic answers, but never have we as laboratory professionals been in such high demand as now.

Although hesitant given the circumstances regarding the distance, travel, and most of all safety, I agreed to accept the opportunity--the call to serve.

Never has I witnessed such scarcity of people at the airport as I did when I flew in route to Houston. Twilight zone, The Walking Dead anyone? Nerves were kicking in to say the least! Leaving family behind was not ideal, flying at this time was definitely not ideal. Thoughts rung in my mind, "I am really flying halfway across the country to work because of COVID! Is it worth it? What happens if I don't make it? What if I hate it? What if I love it? What if I get QUARANTINED?!"

All panic aside, I arrived in Houston safely to start work the next day.

While waiting to meet the manager I met two other lab travelers who also traveled to Houston to serve for COVID; one medical laboratory technician from South Carolina, and the other a medical laboratory scientist from Alaska. I was excited to meet them! We talked and shared our travel stories while waiting to start our new and mysterious work journey.

The laboratory would provide STAT testing to patients in the highly infectious disease unit. We were trained immediately and in less than a week. The days were long and we worked diligently with the lab manager and point of care coordinator to get the lab ready to go live with patient testing. Because of the nature of the crisis, it was necessary for additional experienced laboratory workers to be available and quickly trained to provide urgent answers for critical needs patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That's where we come in as travelers!

Many hospitals, especially in New York, are overwhelmed with the amount of patients, while overwhelms nursing units, creates urgent need for additional nurses and numerous allied health professionals such as respiratory therapists and medical laboratory scientists. Again, that's where we come in as travelers! This experience emphasizes how numerous trained professionals from physicians, nursing, laboratory, pharmacy, and everyone in between work dynamically as a team to diagnose, contain, treat, and educate public health safety at this time. I am honored to be here in Houston serving on the front line of this crisis. Are you serving on the front line during COVID? Leave a comment below!

Jalisa Foulds, MLS (ASCP)cm

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