Carolinas HealthCare System

FAQs for Healthcare Professionals

Why are so many tubes used when blood samples are collected?
Certain tubes contain additives that can interfere with assays and give a false positive, false negative or inconclusive result. This is why several different tubes may be drawn for lab work. Certain tests have time constraints and transportation requirements. The lab can only use a specimen if it is processed correctly. There are many different types of tubes that can be drawn, each with a different additive.

Purple- EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid)
Yellow - ACD (Acid Citrate Dextrose)
Blue - Sodium Citrate
Green - Sodium Heparin or Lithium Heparin
Red - No additive
Grey - Sodium Fluoride
Red with Yellow Ring - clot activator & gel for separation of serum
White - EDTA & gel
Orange/Grey (Tiger top) - gel/no additive

What are the educational requirements for medical technologist, medical laboratory technicians and certified laboratory assistants?
Medical technologists have a bachelor's degree, which usually focuses on medical technology or on one of the life sciences. Formal training is obtained through the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) accredited programs found in universities and hospitals. Certification by the Board of Registry (BOR), which is sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP), is necessary to acquire the title of Medical Technologist (MT). Certification requirements may vary as to the individual's background and are available on the BOR Web site.

Medical laboratory technicians have an associate's degree in laboratory science and are certificated by the BOR, which is sponsored by the ASCP. This training can be obtained through National Accrediting Association of Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) accredited programs which are usually based at local community colleges. 

Clinical laboratory assistants usually have at least a high school degree or equivalent.

What are Standard Precautions?
Standard precautions are measures taken to certify that there is minimal exposure to healthcare workers and others from blood and body fluids in the healthcare environment. Several techniques and types of personal protective equipment are stated in policies regarding standard precautions. Included among these are items such as: gloves, gowns, lab coats, surgical masks, sharps containers and hand washing techniques.

What is the difference between a bacteria and a virus?
Viruses are microorganisms without a cell wall, able to reproduce only by inserting itself into a host cell and using the reproduction mechanisms from the host cell to reproduce. There are numerous groups of different viruses which can cause diseases such as chicken pox, influenza, herpes and HIV. Bacteria are microorganisms which have a cell wall surrounding them. They contain the appropriate materials in order to reproduce without having to enter a host cell. Bacteria are everywhere in the environment; most of which are beneficial to us and some which cause disease.

Viruses are true parasites in that they cannot live long without the host cell supplying energy, protection and the means to allow the virus to replicate. Routine antibiotics are not active against viruses. Special anti-viral drugs may be active against some viruses.

What is MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)?
Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to as "staph," are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. Some staph bacteria are resistant to antibiotics. MRSA is a type of staph that is resistant to a class of antibiotics called beta-lactams. Beta-lactam antibiotics include methicillin, oxacillin (ORSA), penicillin and amoxicillin. While 25 percent to 30 percent of the population is colonized with staph, about one percent are colonized with MRSA.

What is community-acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA)?
Methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) and MRSA infections occur most frequently in hospitalized people and other healthcare facilities such as nursing homes and dialysis centers. MSSA and MRSA, however, can also cause illness in persons outside these healthcare facilities. MRSA infections that are acquired by persons who have not been recently hospitalized (within the past year) nor had a medical procedure are known as CA-MRSA infections. These infections in the community are usually manifested as skin infections, such as pimples and boils, and occur in otherwise healthy individuals.

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