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APSU medical laboratory science alum Melissa Meyer: Wearing a Mask, Good Handwashing can protect you from COVID-19

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – Melissa Guest Meyer is an Austin Peay State University alumna who graduated in 2014 with a degree in Medical Laboratory Science. Meyer works at TriStar Medical Group in Nashville as a general medical technologist. She has spent six years as a medical technologist and almost two years as the point of care coordinator. 

Austin Peay State University alumna Melissa Guest Meyer. (APSU)
Austin Peay State University alumna Melissa Guest Meyer. (APSU)

Meyer tests potential COVID-19 Coronavirus patients almost daily.

As a generalist, Meyer has the expertise to work in all departments under the TriStar umbrella. Meyer has seen plenty of positive COVID-19 Coronavirus tests since the pandemic started in March.

We had an opportunity to ask what her day-to-day work life is like, how we can remain healthy in uncertain times and how she is keeping sane in the madness.

What does your day-to-day life at TriStar look like?

I work in the laboratory. A typical day for me starts at 7:00am in one of the six lab departments, which are chemistry, hematology, coagulation and urinalysis, blood bank, microbiology or specimen processing. Depending on the department I’m in (dictates) what my day looks like. Most departments require quality control and maintenance in the mornings to ensure our instrumentation is working properly.

Each department requires testing blood samples, urine samples or other bodily fluids throughout the day for specific tests the doctors order. I work 12-hour shifts, so I can be in up to three different departments in one day. I look at blood smears to see if there are any abnormalities in a patient’s white cells or red blood cells. I run PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests to determine if a patient has the flu, strep or other contagious diseases.

I find compatible donor blood for patients needing transfusions. If I’m in chemistry I test for enzymes and metabolites that can indicate a heart attack, diabetes and many other ailments. I also work with the nursing staff to ensure they are trained and able to use our point of care (bedside) instrumentation, like glucose meters. I also maintain these instruments and make sure they are working properly. 

How can people stay healthy? Is it as simple as wearing a mask, gloves, quarantining, etc.? Are there other things you have learned through your profession that would be useful for people to know? 

Austin Peay State University alumna Melissa Guest Meyer. (APSU)
Austin Peay State University alumna Melissa Guest Meyer. (APSU)

I believe that wearing a mask and good hand washing practices are great ways to protect yourself and others. If you aren’t feeling well or have a fever, stay home and self-isolate. 

How do you put aside fears about your personal safety so you can do your job effectively? Do you feel more at risk given your profession?

I do not have fears about my personal safety at work. My job entails working with all kinds of infectious diseases, not just COVID, and I know that through proper specimen handling and sanitization practices I can protect myself. This means use of proper PPE, hand washing and bleaching/disinfecting the areas that I work in constantly. We also have daily temperature checks for the entire hospital staff and require the use of a mask at all times. 



Is your lab experiencing personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages?

The hospital I work at assigned a clinician that was solely responsible for overseeing PPE inventory and stewardship to ensure we had enough supplies and equipment to ensure caregivers could safely care for our patients.

Are there any stories you can share where you dealt directly with COVID-19? 

The closest I get to COVID is a nasal swab. I have extremely limited patient contact since I work in the lab. I don’t have any personal experience caring for patients with COVID. 

In your professional opinion, what is the timeline for COVID-19? When can we expect things to go back to “normal?” I know Tennessee has already opened somewhat, but that doesn’t mean things are anywhere close to back to normal.

I’m honestly not sure what the timeline looks like. I don’t believe things will go back to 100% normal for a long time. I think until there is a better understanding of how the virus works and how it affects people, we will be wearing masks and taking precautions for a while. Some normalcy has returned with businesses opening back up, but it is hard to say if everything will go back to the way it was.

Is COVID-19 we can eventually develop a vaccine for? I assume you’ve got your ear to the ground on the potential cures/developments for COVID-19. Do you have any theories on where we are on that?

I definitely believe a vaccine can be created, but I think it will take a couple of years to get it right. The virus is so new, and I think the more research done on it the better. Viruses can be complex and finding a vaccine that will work for the majority of the population will just take time. There are many steps a vaccine has to go through to make it to the general population and I don’t think it’s plausible to have one before the pandemic is over. 



How are you keeping sane during the crazy hours you must be working through this?

My hours have been fairly normal, I may pick up a shift here and there, but otherwise it has not been out of the norm for me. When everything was shut down, we actually worked less because many people weren’t coming to the hospital. We stopped all elective surgeries, and I believe people were scared to come to the ER, so we were really slow for about a while. But since things have opened back up, we have returned to normal. 

What are some good sanitation practices people may not know about?

I think the best piece of advice I can give is to wash your hands properly. You should spend at least 20 seconds scrubbing your hands with soap, making sure to get between the fingers and under your nails. You should always wash your hands before eating and after using the restroom and more often than that when going out in public.


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