The hidden side of Hickam healthcare

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lauren Main
  • 15th Wing Public Affairs
"I, or someone like me, have touched you hundreds of times, but you never saw me, never felt me. I give you hope, provide joy, and unfortunately, deliver bad news. I am never there to share in your excitement or comfort you in your times of sorrow. However, I still feel these emotions from a distance. I am a clinical laboratory scientist."

This excerpt is from an article written by Karen Gordon, president of VA society for Clinical Laboratory Science, was first published in "ASCLS Weekly" - a publication produced by the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science.

"I live and die by those words," says Capt. Julie Kena, Diagnostic & Therapeutic Flight commander. "I'm so passionate about my job. I have the greatest team and I'm so blessed to work with them all."

The Hickam D&T flight is comprised of both radiology and laboratory technicians. Each functional area of the flight are subject to rigorous accountability processes.

In 2011, the flight underwent a rigorous inspection by the College of American Pathologists, in which a team of inspectors had a three-month window to drop in on the D&T flight for an inspection at any moment. Every drop of blood, every urine sample and culture can be inspected. The examiners pulled 2000 items, and when the assessment was complete, there were zero findings and zero recommendations for improvement.

"Following that inspection, we were in the top three percent of the Air Force," said Kena. "They couldn't find one item that was a write up. When you have a lab with zero findings, and zero recommendations ... that's rare."

The top lab in PACAF also has an unrivaled record when it comes to response times.
"The minute an item comes off an instrument, within five minutes, we've got it in the system and have notified the provider with the results," said Kena. "The national average is approximately one hour."

It's important to note, Kena said, that the responsibilities of the D&T flight go beyond public perception. Specifically, they are responsible for more than testing urinalysis samples. In the event in which chemical warfare is waged on the base, Kena and her team are the first responders to determine the actions to be taken following the disaster. The Home Station Medical Response Lab Biological Detection Team moves to an alternate location where biological environmental engineers bring soil and water samples to the team for testing.

"If the base gets hit with the bio agent, we get activated," she said. "We follow a checklist, and follow it to a T. We want to make sure what we report out is accurate and correct. The reason the testing facility is not part of the medical group is because, if anything's going to happen, we only want it to happen to us, and not our patients. " Kena said the lion's share of the credit for the flight's success go to the Airmen who make it up.

"This is an amazing flight when you look at the things that we've done, in the year and a half that I've been here, there hasn't been a quarter that we haven't won an award," Kena said. "My people are just amazing. It's my team, it's my people, it's what we do every day and we do it better than anyone else."