‘Everyone has been super thankful that we’re out there’
By Meg McIntyre
mmcintyre@ lowellsun. com
LOwELL » Before COVID-19 began to sweep through Massachusetts and the country, Samantha Jordan and Lindsey Roberts never had much of an opportunity to work together.
As chief of dental services and laboratory supervisor, respectively, at Lowell Community Health Center, their paths weren’t often likely to cross. But since late April, the two have
TESTIng » 9A
lowell Community Health Center laboratory supervisor lindsey roberts, left, and chief of dental sam Jordan are pictured after a session of CoViD-19 testing at the tent outside the center on Jackson street.
Julia Malakie / lowell sun
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been working together three days a week, helping to collect specimens at the health center’s COVID-19 testing operation on Jackson Street.
For Jordan, working at the testing site is a bit of a departure from her typical work routine, as her days before the pandemic were spent caring for patients and overseeing the center’s dental program. But when the dental center temporarily closed, she quickly jumped on board to help ensure LCHC could begin offering COVID-19 testing to its patients.
“ When I asked her to do the swabbing she without hesitation said she would love to do that. She said yes even taking personal risk herself with being close to patients who were likely to be positive,” Randi Berkowtiz, the center’s chief medical officer, said of Jordan. “ She not only took on new tasks that were not part of her job description, but she also helped to motivate her staff to pitch in and help wherever it was needed.”
Jordan said that part of what she enjoys most about working at a community health center is being a part of a holistic health team addressing patients’ diverse needs — and despite the risk, working at the testing site is another part of being a team player.
“ We aren’t just dentists working alone; we work as a part of a team. And certainly in health centers I think there’s more opportunities for oral health practitioners to help patients outside of what is traditionally thought of as dental,” Jordan said. “ But this is definitely not something I was expecting to be doing, but I’m grateful to be able to help out.”
Roberts, on the other hand, never really got an opportunity to find out what a normal day of working at the health center would look like. She joined the staff there to oversee departmental lab services in early March, only about a week before the facility moved most of its operations off- site in light of the pandemic.
“ We clearly brought a team player on board,” Beth Hale, the health center’s chief clinical officer, said of Roberts. “ She stepped right up to assist with our drive- up and walk- up COVID testing, helping us to stand up quickly and assure efficient operations. This testing puts Lindsey right on the front lines.”
Though collecting specimens in an outdoor environment is new territory, Roberts said her work as a clinical laboratory scientist prepared her well for the situation, as she’s used to taking strict protective precautions in her day- today work.
“ Typically a clinical laboratory scientist is working in a windowless lab. So it’s kind of nice to be outside and actually have a little more communication with the patients and the community,” Roberts said. “ Everyone has been super thankful that we’re out there.”
According to Roberts, the health center’s testing site collects anywhere from about 15 specimens per day to more than 40 on its busiest, with the capacity to collect more. After the LCHC lab takes care of all of the necessary paperwork, the samples are sent to Quest Diagnostics for nucleic acid testing and the results are sent back to the center electronically, she said.
For some patients, the idea of undergoing a nasophyrangeal swab — which takes a specimen from the back of the nose and throat and is the most reliable testing method for COVID19 — can be daunting. In those cases, Jordan and Roberts are also there to help reassure them and talk them through the procedure, which takes only about 15 seconds but can be uncomfortable.
“ We’ve had patients that have come to the testing site, and they’re really nervous and anxious and they’ve just expressed how much they appreciate being able to come to a familiar place,” Jordan said. “ With so much being unfamiliar, being able to get their test done at the health center is a small source of comfort for our patients during this time, and I think it’s really great that the health center is able to offer the service.”
Roberts agreed that she’s happy to be able to help fill a need during this time, and noted she’s proud of the role she and other clinical laboratory scientists have taken on during the pandemic.
“ I’m a big proponent in educating people about clinical laboratory scientists and I’m glad this can shine a little light on the importance of laboratory work and how many things rely on laboratory decisions. One of the sayings is, ‘ Without the lab, you’re only guessing,'” Roberts said. “And so in this pandemic and this disease, that really comes to light.”
Lowell Community Health Center’s COVID-19 testing site is open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week from 9 a. m. to 1 p. m. Health center patients who are interested in being tested should contact their care provider to set up an appointment.
Lindsey Roberts, left, and Sam Jordan both stepped up right away to run the COVId-19 testing site at Lowell Community Health Center.
JULIa MaLakIE / LOWELL SUN
Chief of dental Sam Jordan is shown in her PPE after a session of COVId-19 testing at the tent outside Lowell Community Health Center.
Laboratory supervisor Lindsey Roberts disinfects her hands after taking off her gloves after a session of COVId-19 testing at Lowell Community Health Center.
“We aren’t just dentists working alone; we work as a part of a team.”
– Sam Jordan, chief of dental