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A look inside the essential work being done to test for COVID-19 in Arizona

A look inside the essential work being done to test for COVID-19 in Arizona
Posted at 10:17 PM, Oct 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-28 01:18:44-04

Testing for the coronavirus helps the state with a road map to recovery. The results -- whether positive or negative -- patients receive play a huge role in slowing the spread by telling that patient whether they need to isolate or not.

The Rebound Arizona recently went inside Sonora Quest Laboratories to see how they are keeping up with testing demand and where the need for healthcare workers stands, specifically of employees who are behind the scenes.

Those are the lab technicians, phlebotomists, and more and they are the ones that usually begin a patient's healthcare journey.

"I perform patient testing," said Phong Nguyen, a technical coordinator of automated serology at Sonora Quest Laboratories. "On top of that, I also ensure that... our quality is, you know, met."

Nguyen said he went into medicine because of his interest in infectious diseases.

"This offers a great mix of science and technology and that's what I am passionate about," he said.

While the pandemic has changed the world, Nguyen said his job hasn't necessarily changed, just that he has a different set of results to deliver.

"Testing, I believe, provides answers for our patients... our providers," Nguyen said. "And that helps them diagnose patients."

Sonora Quest said their current turnaround time for individual COVID-19 test results is 24 to 48 hours, a much quicker response than the lab saw earlier this year.

They hired more than 200 additional employees to help keep up with demand and are more confident in where they stand now, the lab said. And they need more employees.

So far, employees have conducted nearly 1 million COVID-19 tests and more than 245,000 antibody tests.

There are nearly 200 open positions listed on Sonora Quest's website, everything from entry-level positions to positions that require a science background.

A career path in the medical field seems to be a staple in the job industry during these uncertain times.

"The decrease of laboratory scientists and technicians... this has been a conversation for about a decade," said Havona Horsefield, communications manager at Sonora Quest. "I mean, a lot of laboratories have been talking about it and we've been talking about it."

Sonora Quest has created partnerships to help start externship programs with colleges and universities, including Phoenix Collect, to raise awareness that this type of profession exists and to potentially recruit people.

"Our philosophy is hire to retire," Horsefield said. "We want you to start here and we want you to retire here."

It's also about finding what part of the lab interests someone, Horsefield said. There are a lot of positions that exist beyond testing for coronavirus.

"The lab has very specialized fields, just like a provider," Horsefield said. "You go to a doctor... you go to a cardiologist for your heart. You go to a neurologist for your brain. Same in a lab."

Horsefield describes these workers as the jumpstart to patient care, even if it is not face-to-face care.

Visit https://www.sonoraquest.com/careers to view a list of open positions and their requirements.