Cross matching is a necessary step in blood transfusion to ensure donor blood is compatible with the receiving patient. Transfusion Medicine technologists at UHN conduct this test daily to find the perfect match. (Video: UHN and CSMLS)

A type of knitting, a Canadian television channel, and an ingredient in Gatorade.

These are some of the answers you may get if you ask non-laboratory staff about Cross Matching, CBC, and Protein Electrophoresis.

That's why there's National Med Lab Week​ (NMLW). Being celebrated from April 16 to 22 this year, it's a week for lab professionals to educate others on their work and highlight the laboratory's critical role in patient care.

"We're part of a profession that primarily works 'behind the scenes,'" says Dr. Runjan Chetty, Interim Medical Director of UHN's Laboratory Medicine Program (LMP). "So this is a chance for our lab staff to get in front of patients and answer some of the unknowns around what goes on in the lab."

Tying into this effort is a series of newly released videos that take viewers inside the labs at Toronto General Hospital, where LMP laboratory technologists show the step-by step process for conducting some of the lab's most common tests.

The videos, jointly created by UHN and the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS), focus on: Cross Matching, Complete Blood Counts (CBC) and Protein Electrophoresis.

Since their release in mid-March, the three videos collectively have over 115,000 views on Facebook, and have been shared over 2,500 times.

Complete Blood Count (CBC) is possibly the most common laboratory test ordered. It takes an in-depth look at a patient’s blood and counts the number of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets to monitor a patient’s health and check for abnormalities.(Video: UHN and CSMLS)

The NMLW booth

Another way to learn about the role of UHN lab staff is to visit the NMLW booth rotating between UHN sites all week. The booth gives patients, visitors and staff an opportunity to talk to UHN lab professionals about their work.

Additionally, booth visitors can perform their own lab test to see what kind of bacteria is hidden on their phone or wallet – or sports fans may want to participate in the lab-themed selfie contest for a chance to win Toronto Blue Jays' tickets.

The booth will be managed by LMP staff and laboratory science students from The Michener Institute of Education at UHN, and will be running from 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday to Friday. See full schedule below:

Today9 a.m. – 12 p.m.Toronto General – Eaton Lobby
Wednesday9 a.m. – 12 p.m.Toronto Western – Main Lobby
Thursday9 a.m. – 12 p.m.Princess Margaret – Main Lobby
Friday9 a.m. – 12 p.m.Toronto General – Eaton Lobby​

The scope of UHN labs

Laboratory testing has an impact on nearly every patient that visits a UHN hospital. With roughly 500 staff, LMP's team of laboratory experts conduct thousands of tests daily to help provide accurate and timely diagnoses to UHN patients.

"It takes the work of all LMP staff to deliver timely test results to UHN patients," says Dr. Chetty. "Our key focus is patient care and our teams provide what's needed to make the best medical decisions as patients move forward on their hospital journey."

For a comprehensive look at how the laboratory is involved with your health, visit the CSMLS National Med Lab Week site

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Protein Electrophoresis is arguably the most complex test covered in the three part series. It accurately measures patient protein levels. Whether there’s too much, too little, or anything in between, LMP technologists are able to learn a lot about their patients’ health through electrophoresis.(Video: UHN and CSMLS)
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