Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charlotte Oliver
A Sailor sits quietly in a chair, sweat beading on his forehead; his fingers tap a rhythm against the armrest. The door opens and Hospital Corpsman (HM) 2nd Class Steffan King, from Brooklyn, N.Y., enters and takes out a syringe.
The Sailor is nervous about having his blood drawn but seems to relax as King talks to him. King cleans the Sailor’s arm with an alcohol swab and inserts the needle.
The laboratory technicians aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) work day and night to ensure every Sailor receives medical care and are kept mission ready.
“One day is never like the next,” said King. “Sometimes it’s routine checks like drawing blood or urinalyses, and sometimes patients come in that are really sick, and they require more testing.”
To become a qualified laboratory technician, Sailors must earn a medical laboratory technician certificate from the National Certification Agency for Medical Laboratory Personnel. They must also attain the Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) code 8506 by completing a one-year advanced school.
“This NEC makes us pretty versatile in the medical community,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Habtamusolomon Yimesgen, from Gaithersburg, Md.
The Stennis laboratory is capable of performing a variety of tests, including blood tests for HIV, Hepatitis, complete blood count (CBC), and urine tests. The lab also performs skin scrape tests in which skin cells are collected in the form of scrapings and placed under a microscope for analysis and process to potentially identify many forms of bacterial and fungal infections.
“There’s no guess work with the tests we perform,” said Yimesgen. “The results of these tests tell us what’s wrong with the patient and that helps the doctor prescribe treatment for what they may have.”
Like many jobs in the medical field, laboratory technicians are often exposed to more germs than other Sailors, but for these HMs the reward outweighs the risk.
“The exposure to disease and contagious skin conditions is there, but our job is to help people, and this job can be very rewarding,” said King. “I’ve always wanted to be in the medical field and if I ever decide to become a doctor, nurse or IDC [independent duty corpsman] the knowledge I have now will give me an advantage when I go to school.”
The job of the Stennis laboratory technicians is demanding and there is never a dull moment for these Sailors. Whether it is taking a routine blood sample or finding out the cause of an unseen ailment, these medical professionals take pride in caring for their fellow Sailors aboard the Stennis.
The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, consisting of Stennis, Carrier Air Wing 9, Destroyer Squadron 21, and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility to strengthen regional partnerships, sustain maritime security, and support combatant commander requirements for assets in the area.
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Diana Rodriguez, from San Diego, draws blood from a patient aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chelsy Alamina/Released)