16:13 PM

Behind the Scenes: North Valley Hospital’s Laboratory

Every morning North Valley Hospital clinical laboratory scientist Christina Beach Hostetler starts her day at 6:30 a.m. studying specimens and endeavoring to learn as much as she can about each new patient before the morning meeting with hospitalist, pharmacist, and several other North Valley Hospital staff who are part of the patient’s care team.

Christina joined the North Valley Hospital team a few weeks ago after working several years in an urban hospital setting in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of Whitefish High School, Christina returned to town with her family to be closer to grandparents. When asked what she likes about being in a smaller hospital she sites these meetings for one.

“The increased communication and ability to meet face-to-face, that just didn’t happen in Portland, it was too big,” Christina said. “The ability to have these meetings and direct communication with care providers helps to see the bigger clinical picture.”

The morning meeting has been a standard practice for a long time, yet having one of the laboratory’s microbiologists sit in was the idea of Molly Higgins, who with 31 years of experience at North Valley Hospital.

“I had heard about these meetings and thought it would be constructive for a microbiologist to be there,” Molly said.

Under the supervision of Terri Benedict, the North Valley Hospital lab employs 27 people, 15 Clinical Laboratory Scientists (microbiologists) and 12 phlebotomists.

The lab is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For a small town, North Valley Hospital’s Laboratory a lot of technology, more than the other CAHs in Montana, it's quite impressive. NVH also performs an impressive amount of tests for a smaller hospital--about 10,000 a month and was trending toward 12,000 before covid hit. There are a number of (tests) that can be (diagnosed) in Whitefish and most of what cannot be processed there can be sent to KRMC staying in the valley... We work very closely with them, it's an excellent relationship (?) said Terri Benedict, and she would know, she worked there for 15 years before spending the last (x) here. Testing and top of the line equipment are all impressive for a hospital like ours, yet even the most impressive machines (like the GenMark purchased earlier this year for $100k) is not as critical as the people.

Transition to retired staff staying on to teach new staff making a smooth transition (haha) and then the years of experience on our staff from Terri to Rosie, Molly who I didn't meet and why is she not on the portal?

Typically in a normal time we would not even think about the lab but with covet 19 everyone's thinking about covetous and going to the lab and getting back results and how things are done So at least they're getting a little bit more attention and they deserve it. Really so many things depend on lab work if you go into the ER presenting some strange symptoms what do they do? They take a blood test or hearing sample and then send it to the lab to see what you have nowadays with covet and other infectious diseases if you want to get surgery you need to get tested before you go in. Once at the lab they can... there are a lot of preventative things that they do proactive tests that you can get through monitor your health...

The health care workers on the front lines, the ones who face the sick and are seen by the public are most front of mind, especially now. However, all departments from emergency to surgery to the pharmacy-- the professionals that figure out precisely what kind of drugs and what dosage will help the patients, is one other department we often forget about. The lab.