Voted as the seventh “Most Beautiful Hospital in America” for 2015 by Soliant Health, Forest Park Medical Center in Southlake is a for-profit, doctor-owned, acute care hospital that provides unparalleled care to their patients. The focus at Forest Park in Southlake is to heal through the five senses. For sight, they provide beautiful rooms, artwork, and sculptures throughout the facility. Sound is kept soothing with water features in the lobby for tranquility. To cover taste, they have a chef on-staff who provides delicious meals for patients and families. Touch is invoked with hotel-quality bath towels and robes as well as luxury textures throughout the building. And lastly, the lobby is equipped with a subtle, relaxing scent.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Clark Houser, the Director of Laboratory Services at Forest Park Medical Center in Southlake to learn more about how blood transfusion plays a role in healing for its patients.
How long have you been with Forest Park Medical Center?
I started with the company in March of 2012. I opened Forest Park Medical Center Frisco in June of 2012 then transferred to Forest Park Medical Center at Southlake which opened in June of 2013.
What does your role entail?
It’s a working manager role so I oversee all departments and occasionally fill gaps in the schedule. No one at our facility knows this lab better than I do.
How did you get into this field?
I kind of fell into it. I studied to become a Med Tech because I was always good with math and science but enjoyed healthcare too. I never really second-guessed it. After a few years working night shifts, I began taking on more supervisor-type duties and that opened more doors for me. I just kept moving along and found what clicked best with me.
Did you ever consider blood banking?
Not really. With blood banking, you work a long time for a very small result, and that isn’t exactly my thing. I like being involved in everything and learning how it all goes together.
So what is your relationship with Carter BloodCare?
I do almost all of the interfacing with them. Everything from contracts, invoices and ordering. We don’t have a large Blood Bank on-site so we utilize their reference lab regularly. I was invited to speak at their office here in Bedford last August. It’s a good relationship.
At Forest Park, where do you see the greatest need for transfusion?
In this area and with our patient mix, surgeries focused on Women’s Services tend to utilize the greatest number of units.
Why do you think you see such a large number of women in need of transfusion?
It could really be anything from a complicated pregnancy to later in life issues and beyond. We don’t really have many so-called ‘bloody cases’ because we don’t handle trauma. Almost all of our surgery procedures are planned ahead of time.
Which blood products do you see the greatest need for here?
We do very basic blood banking and most of our cases are same-day outpatient surgeries so we know when a patient is coming in and can order blood for them accordingly. We might have the occasional platelet or plasma transfusion if a pre-op diagnosis calls for it, but we typically just keep packed cells on site.
Since you can kind of “plan” for what blood you need each day, how often are you putting in orders to Carter BloodCare for more products?
On average, maybe once every one or two weeks. It’s usually small orders since we focus on only getting what we need on the shelves.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle towards getting more people to give?
I’ve hosted a few blood drives and usually I hear two things: For one, a lot of people don’t like to get stuck. Secondly, people think it takes too long.
It’s only one hour. People think that’s too long?
It’s all about convenience. If we don’t have a reason to give, we don’t put it as a priority. It’s the metroplex mentality. We are all so ‘in our heads’ and moving fast. We don’t sit still or have time to, so it is tough to find time to make the commitment. We all have pressing issues that get in the way, it can just be inconvenient for us.
What would you say to people to try to convince them to give more?
For us, accidents can happen at any time during surgery. If there is a complication, it can turn into an emergency very quickly. When things happen you need blood right away. Our whole team stops what we are doing to find the right match in time, because people can bleed out so quickly. There’s such a huge benefit to having that resource readily available. Our patients never know when they might need a transfusion during surgery.
What impact do you think blood donation has on the community?
Giving blood is just a simple way to participate. I think that when people refuse to donate, they aren’t fully participating in society. Like I said, at Forest Park, we host multiple blood drives, sponsor community events, we’ve even hosted car shows and pet adoptions. There’s such a huge benefit to participating and being a part of the community. People come to our facility because they want to; so, to us, being a part of the community is important.
When you give blood, you don’t know who you’ll give to and you don’t know if you’ll need it. So just give.
Do you have any blood transfusion stories that have really stuck with you?
I used to work at another hospital on the night shift. One night this guy came in with a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurism, so basically the wall of his abdominal aorta weakened, ballooned up, and burst.
I spent that whole night supporting the ER and OR with blood products for him. It was a massive transfusion, which basically means he lost all his blood and we were fighting to save his life. During my eight-hour shift he took more than 20 units, plus whatever the next shift had to supply.
About a month later I saw a thank you note this patient’s family member had written to all the doctors and nurses and EMTs who helped save his life. And I wasn’t mentioned, despite being the only person working in the lab that night.
And to me that’s the thing about lab work. Those are the “unsung heroes.” If we do our jobs well, no one knows who we are. We don’t get the appreciation or praise, but that’s not what we get into this line of work to do. In lab work, we get the chance to save people’s lives every day and that’s what makes it worth it.
Any last thoughts?
In health care, you’re part of a team. You never know who or what will walk through the door. You don’t get into this because you like your own time. You do this because you want to make a real difference. And a lot of times blood makes that possible.
It is such a critical product. We never know who will need blood or how much. It is so important to help us save lives.