[VIDEO] Ongoing Laboratory Improvement | Why Labs Need Some TLC Too
Every day of every year, laboratories in fertility clinics are monitoring, observing, and, essentially, “babysitting” embryos, sperm, and eggs. Their security systems are always active, and protocols are strictly followed with every movement.
But at some point, every year, the laboratory itself needs some love to make sure those systems are a up to the standard of the practice.
Here at RMA of Connecticut, we call this time period Ongoing Laboratory Improvement, or OLI for short.
During this lab-love-period, things need to go a bit dormant for a couple weeks in order to take care of equipment, staff, and the precious materials with which they deal. The lab needs to be quiet and embryos and other specimen need to be properly stowed away and safeguarded.
Check out the Instagram Live we hosted with our Medical Director and Founder, Dr. Mark Leondires. He breaks it all down for us. (Or you can scroll on past the video to read the takeaways from our head embryologist!)
I also recently spoke with our head embryologist here at RMA of Connecticut and got to the bottom of this question. Why does a lab need to take this time away from the normal workflow? Is it necessary? Is it important? Is it safe?
Please note that all of these responses pertain particularly to RMA of Connecticut. It is a common practice across the industry to administer a laboratory quality check, but our standards, protocols, and securities are our own.
Why We Have Ongoing Laboratory Improvement, According to an Embryologist
What is the date of the Ongoing Laboratory Improvement (OLI)?
We experience this checkpoint once per year around the New Year. This year, our check will be between the dates of December 18th-January 11. This means we will not be performing certain reproductive procedures during this timeframe, like oocyte retrievals and embryo transfers.
Why is there an OLI?
OLI is an extremely important process that is pretty standard for IVF laboratories all around the country/world. Some practices have multiple checkpoints throughout the year, while others only have one. We experience only the one checkpoint, so it is important that we maximize this time to get a lot of essential maintenance, cleaning, updates, and mandatory paperwork completed.
Since we are only “closed” a couple days every year (Christmas Day and New Year’s Day), our equipment runs 24/7 on all other days of the year. Preventative maintenance and standard service appointments are made during this checkpoint to allow for ease of access to our essential equipment like incubators, refrigerators, centrifuges, etc. During this time, equipment is serviced, cleaned, sterilized, and tested before being put back into service for the next year. This allows us time to ensure that all equipment is in tip top shape for our patients at all times.
Again, because we are constantly up and running throughout the year, it is nearly impossible to schedule installation and set-up of new equipment, so this can only be performed when the lab is experiencing this downtime. We would not want to risk bumping into other equipment or staff when trying to move or assemble large items like incubators or hoods. For this reason, these couple weeks offer a safe time to update our current equipment and add anything new that we might need for the upcoming year.
Because we are open almost 365 days per year, that equates to the need for staff on-site at all times. While downtime is not intended for the purpose of vacation time, it offers some flexibility for some of our staff to take time off with their own families around the holidays. Even for the staff members that do not take time off, completing necessary administrative tasks offers a break from the intense procedural schedule we experience throughout the year. If you think about it in comparison to our equipment, our embryologists and andrologists are also running almost 365 days per year, for as many hours as necessary to complete all procedures at the highest level of care. So it is extremely important to allow them the opportunity to rest and recharge.
What happens to the embryos, eggs, and sperm during OLI?
Please feel secure in knowing that all specimens remain safely stored on-site whether it is during this checkpoint or not. Our staff is present to closely measure and monitor each cryo storage tank throughout the day (where frozen eggs, embryos, and sperm are kept). And in addition to visual monitoring during the day, each tank is also monitored 24/7 by a robust alarm system that includes two different probes checking temperatures. If anything moves within our lab, if the temperature changes by a degree, if a light turns on or off…we know about it.
Ongoing Laboratory Improvement is Necessary, Safe, and Important
For active embryology and andrology labs, such as ours, this checkpoint is a critical time to incorporate brand new, high-end technology and machinery, plus a time to refresh the existing securities and equipment that are working every day of the year.
You can trust that at RMA of Connecticut, we are taking this time to ensure a safe, secure journey for you. It all comes down to the fact that we want you feel confident in our high standards of care.
Going through infertility is never easy, so we want to be able to offer you the peace of mind that your specimen are cared for in the best way possible. This quality check of our laboratories allows us to do just that.
What exactly does the embryology laboratory do?
About Virginia Hamilton Furnari
Virginia Hamilton Furnari is RMA of Connecticut’s Brand Specialist and has a background in writing, marketing, and content production. In addition to helping mold the RMA of CT brand through blogs, videos, and events, she is also a patient and has undergone many fertility treatments. Given her professional and personal involvement in the fertility community, she has immersed her mind, body, and soul in family-building education.