William Barnes, along with his colleague Aaron Hill, developed the in-house COVID-19 test in our Microbiology Laboratory. He is a medical technologist II who has been with VCU Health for three years. His role in developing the COVID-19 test in the lab has led to big changes in his daily work. We recently caught up with him to learn about those changes and more.
What is a day on the job like since the pandemic began?
For me personally, I have been training the other technologist in our lab to perform the SARS-COV-2 test since we developed it a month ago.
What has been most different from "normal" days in the hospital?
I usually have other duties assigned to me in the laboratory, but since the pandemic started I have been devoted to ensuring our testing for SARS-COV-2 is going smoothly and to improve the process.
So for me, I haven't had a normal day since the start of March.
What remains the same?
We are still doing all of our other testing, but now we also test for SARS-COV-2.
The laboratory goes on as it always has. We test samples, and strive to have the shortest turnaround time possible, while also delivering accurate and high-quality results.
What has been most difficult for you personally during the pandemic (work or personal life)?
Our test is unique in that we developed it. It was not created and validated by a diagnostic company. Developing and validating a test can be very time consuming, sometimes taking months to a year. With the support of many others in the laboratory; the directors, a supervisor, and I developed and validated this test in 10 days. It was long hours with a lot of pressure knowing that the hospital was really depending on us to get the test up and running. I know the four of us had to put everything on hold in our personal lives.
Have you seen any moments of hope or kindness in the hospital that you would like to share?
The whole microbiology team had a part in supporting us while we were developing the test last month. Truly, the microbiology laboratory staff has given me the most hope that we can overcome challenges during this pandemic.
What are you doing to take care of your well-being during the pandemic?
I mountain bike a lot to clear my head and get rid of stress.
What do you most look forward to doing when the pandemic ends?
Going on a camping trip in the Appalachians to bike and hike.
Would you like to share any words of encouragement for your fellow team members?
It takes a lot of creativity to solve the problems we are facing, and no one person can do it alone. Do not be afraid to be wrong, ask for help, and figure it out together.