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MIT Medical celebrates opening of newly renovated clinical laboratory

Behind the scenes, things were anything but routine for the lab during the last year.
Before and after: Clinical laboratory staff donned hard hats to visit the lab during renovations (top), and pose in the same spot after moving back into the newly renovated space almost a year later.
Before and after: Clinical laboratory staff donned hard hats to visit the lab during renovations (top), and pose in the same spot after moving back into the newly renovated space almost a year later.

The average patient wouldn’t have noticed much out of the ordinary during a visit to the MIT Medical lab last year. As usual, he or she would have signed in, and then accompanied the phlebotomist to an inner room for a blood draw. As always, the results would have been available later that day or the next.

But behind the scenes, things were anything but routine. On Dec. 15, 2010, the entire clinical laboratory moved across Carleton Street to the fifth floor of Building E34 while its space in Building E23 was fully renovated.
Even on the day of the move, patients would have noticed little interruption, says clinical laboratory manager Jane Sylvester. “We moved the equipment first,” she explains, “plugged it in, and ran quality-control samples immediately” to make sure nothing had been damaged in transit. “We were up and running patient samples four hours later.”

'A handoff in the middle of the street'

The temporary space offered a beautiful view of the Boston skyline, Sylvester recalls, “but we don’t miss much else.” While most laboratory staff worked at the temporary facility, phlebotomists continued to work in E23 after moving to a windowless room they dubbed “the den.” They also made at least four trips a day to bring samples to the laboratory across the street.
“Delivering samples was part of going to lunch,” Sylvester laughs. The biggest issue, she says, was “stats” — lab tests that needed to be run immediately. “Phlebotomists would bring the sample right over if they could get away, or a lab tech would run over to pick it up. Often they’d end up doing a handoff in the middle of the street.”

Once renovations were complete, laboratory staff waited another two months for a mandatory state inspection before they could begin using the new space. “Having this wonderful new lab and not being able to use it was the worst part,” Sylvester says.

New space, new equipment

With the long-awaited move back to E23 in March, laboratory staff gained access to a new, top-of-the-line analyzer that replaced two smaller units, Sylvester explains, and has allowed the lab to expand the number of tests it can offer. In addition, the new lab area has an extra 10 square feet of “bench space” — countertop used for processing samples. The facility is also now completely accessible to patients with mobility impairments, with wider hallways and accessible bathrooms.

Passing inspection with flying colors

On May 25, inspectors from the College of American Pathologists arrived unannounced for their biannual accreditation visit. The newly renovated laboratory passed “with no deficiencies,” Sylvester reports.
“This has truly been a group effort,” Sylvester says. “Having this new space is really terrific, but being part of this wonderful team is the best part of all.”

Most MIT employees can use MIT Medical’s lab

As long as you’re covered by either MIT-sponsored health insurance plan (Choice or MIT Traditional), you’re eligible to use MIT Medical’s laboratory with no copay — even if you don’t get your primary care at MIT Medical.

“We can run tests ordered by health care providers at MIT Medical or anywhere else,” Sylvester says. Many employees who have standing orders for weekly or monthly blood tests enjoy the ease of being able to get their tests during a free moment in the workday, she notes. And it’s especially convenient for tests like cholesterol that require fasting overnight. “The lab opens at 8:30 a.m.,” she explains, “so you can stop in for the blood draw as soon as you get to work.”

Most tests can be done on a walk-in basis with results sent to the patient’s health care provider within 24 to 48 hours. Want to know more? Stop by the lab on the first floor of Building E23 or call 617-253-4239.

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