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Essential Worker spotlight: Recent lab retiree says COVID-19 is unlike anything she's had to deal with before

Stephanie Rossanese was nominated for our Essential Worker spotlight, but credits her fellow lab employees for their resiliency
Stephanie Rossanese was the manager of anatomical pathology in the lab at Health Sciences North before she retired on June 1, 2020. (Supplied)'s Essential Worker of the Day is a new daily feature that applauds our local health care and other essential workers who continue to serve our community during these uncertain times. We honour an essential worker every day at noon. But that' not all, every other Wednesday, we will feature an essential worker as part of our Community Leaders Program. 

Today, we are sharing the story of a recently retired, and very humble, lab manager at Health Sciences North.

Stephanie Rossanese has spent her entire career working in the medical lab.

Forty years ago, she started as a bench technologist in a hospital in southern Ontario. She spent a few years at a private laboratory before finishing off the rest of her career in the lab at Health Sciences North (HSN).

As the manager of anatomical pathology in the lab at HSN, Rossanese's responsibilities covered microbiology, cytology, genomics, histology, morgue and safety. 

Lab work is crucial in diagnosing and determining appropriate patient care including testing for COVID-19.  

"The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything that I have had to deal with before," Rossanese said. "I worked through SARS and Ebola, but it was different in that we had measures in place to prepare for it, but did not see it actively in our own community."

"The lab is involved in supplying test kits, testing and resulting COVID-19 testing for our community."

"This meant taking all the steps necessary to secure supplies and equipment, put processes in place, complete staff training and add the manpower resources to keep up with demand. Lab staff are very resilient and used to changing and managing priorities when there is a need."

Aside from the pandemic, Rossanese said one of the most challenging parts of the job is recruitment.

"As we see the baby boomers exit the workforce, taking with them years of knowledge and experience, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit."

"We see this especially in the more specialized areas of the laboratory such as cytopathology, genomics and our pathologists’ assistants, but we are even starting to see that it is becoming more difficult to replace our general medical laboratory technologists."

And that is a shame, Rossanese said, because "it can be a very rewarding career choice" that is never boring.

After 40 years, Rossanese officially retired on June 1. 

Senior pathologists’ assistant Phil Guertin nominated Rossanese for's Essential Worker spotlight.  

"(Rossanese) has been with us for six or seven years, and is the hardest working and most caring and compassionate worker I know," Guertin said. 

"Thank you for a job well done. You’ve got what is arguably the most difficult and thankless job in the lab, yet you’ve consistently done it with grace, class, grit, tact, and skill. You’ve unknowingly taught many of us a lot."

Although she was the one nominated, Rossanese says her team deserves the recognition. 

"I’m touched to be nominated ... but in being recognized I want to include all the highly skilled and caring laboratory employees that I have had the privilege to work with through the years," Rossanese said. 

"From the phlebotomists who draw blood at the bedside of the patient, to the lab staff who work behind the scenes providing diagnostic testing and results, to aid in patient treatment and management, we are all an integral and essential part of the healthcare team. Our lab staff should be very proud of the work that they do and their contributions to patient care."

"What I will miss the most is the energy of working in a busy laboratory, working with my colleagues, exchanging ideas and being part of improvement work and the pride and satisfaction of knowing that the work that we do in the lab is of value to our patients and their families."

"I feel proud of the work that I have done in the past 40 years and the contributions that I’ve made. I have been so fortunate to work with and learn from so many diverse and talented people, not only in the lab but in many other areas of health care."

"I am looking forward to slowing down and taking time to appreciate everything that I have and enjoy my family."

Do you know an essential worker who deserves to be recognized? Say thanks to someone you know who is a front-line health care worker, cashier or truck driver by sending in a photo, their name, their job title and your words of thanks to Please only send photos and information with permission.