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Melinda Kusters’ white coat is an everyday accessory for her at work. However, she’s not a doctor, rather a Lead Medical Laboratory Scientist. Her position is a vital role in hospitals that helps patients in need. While most of the time she isn’t interacting with patients directly, chances are she’s handling, analyzing and testing patients’ lab samples.

She says, “a lot of people don’t know what we do,” and adds, “if it comes out of your body, chances are it comes to us.”

Kusters, an employee of Ascension SE Wisconsin Hospital – Franklin Campus, received her bachelor’s in Medical Science from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. In addition to working in the hospital, she is currently in grad school for Biomedical Science at UWM. She hopes to teach future healthcare workers someday, but until then, Kusters is working day in and day out, with her focus on processing specimens.

Kusters Keeps Going

The lab’s main focuses are on blood work, coagulation, urine analysis, chemistry and hematology. In addition, someone in her role has the ability to draw blood and take samples, as a phlebotomist would. While she doesn’t specialize in just one area of the lab, it is possible to do so.

“A lot of hospitals don’t have a lab visible, patients don’t see it,” says Kusters. That doesn’t mean that her work isn’t impactful. Chances are you won’t bump into Kusters while at the hospital, but it’s likely that she will assist in your care. Whether you are in the Emergency Room having bloodwork done, getting swabbed for COVID-19, or giving a urine sample, she is a part of your care team.

While Kusters may not see patients face to face, she never misses a beat and always works to provide the best care. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted hospital systems in the United States, including Ascension’s Franklin Campus. The added patients, dimished staff, tests and safety protocols has brought a considerable amount stress to every area of the hospital, including her lab. Throughout the pandemic, Kusters has kept her focus on what matters most: the patients. Despite staff and supply shortages, and rising cases of COVID-19, Kusters has found ways to push through.

Saving a Patient’s Dog

The positive moments are what carry her through the tough times. Knowing that she gets to make a difference in patient care keeps Kusters hopeful. Recently, Kusters and her coworker, Meghan Struck, were able to save a patient’s dog. Struck is a Phlebotomist at Ascension’s Franklin Campus.

One day when she was drawing blood, she realized that her patient’s dog was about to be in serious need. While this patient thought their visit to the hospital would be a short one, it ended up requiring admittance and a lengthy stay. At the time, the dog was in the patient’s car. When Struck found out, she knew that she had to do something to help. Struck mentioned the situation to Kusters, who was eager to help.

Kusters and her co-worker ended up going to the car where the dog was to save the animal. From there, Struck cared for the pet at her house until the patient was able to care for the dog again. This situation just goes to show that healthcare workers like Kusters and Struck always have the patient’s best interest in mind.

Kusters says she wouldn’t have been able to help without Struck.

A Team Effort

Healthcare is a team effort. During the pandemic, that realization came to light for Kusters even more so. She says, “so much goes into the hospital,” and that statement couldn’t be truer. What happens at the hospital is only made possible by a team effort. Kusters is one member who stands out.

“ER nurses should be praised every day,” she says. Along with them, “ER techs, CNA’s, phlebotomists,” deserve praise as well. Even though most healthcare workers in Kusters’ shoes get overlooked, the community couldn’t function without these hometown heroes.

COVID-19

The Racine County Eye and Kenosha Lens is committed to publishing the most current and accurate information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in our Coronavirus section. View both the Racine County COVID-19 Dashboard and Kenosha County COVID-19 Dashboard offering real-time (updated Monday – Friday) statistical reporting for Racine and Kenosha Counties.

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Want to read more stories like this? Check out our Hometown Hero section. Do you know someone who is a hometown hero? Nominate someone by emailing Emma Widmar at ewidmar@racinecountyeye.com.

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