Demand for COVID-19 testing has small North Sound lab on hiring spree

VIDEO: Demand for COVID-19 testing has small North Sound lab on hiring spree

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — The demand for COVID-19 testing has transformed a small North Sound lab into an international player.

And now the lab desperately needs employees to process thousands of tests each day. This, even though the lab’s staff has quadrupled in less than a year.

Northwest Laboratory needs to grow even more to keep up with the tremendous need for their services.

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It is difficult to overstate the impact the demand for COVID-19 testing has had on Northwest Laboratory.

“It has redefined us as a company,” says Jennifer Bull.

After 21 years with the Bellingham company, Bull is now its chief operating officer.

“About a year ago, we had 106 staff,” Bull said. “We’re currently at 422 (staffers) with about 100 positions still to fill.”

And she makes no secret of just how urgently they want to fill these positions.

“We would hire you,” she said, laughing.

That means one doesn’t need a scientific background to work for Northwest Lab.

“Correct,” Bull confirmed. “We have lots of entry level positions. What you need to do is have a desire to help out, make an impact and work well with our team.”

Back in March, it was a big deal to process a few hundred COVID-19 tests here.

Just nine months later, with the deadly disease raging across North America, 13,000 to 15,000 tests from 37 states and Canada are turned around here each day, in 24 to 48 hours per test.

Lab manager Bri Spencer says the demand is straining nearly every aspect of the job.

“Even down to making sure, especially with the high volume of staff that we have lab coats,” Spencer said. “Getting them washed and a new set in. It’s constant.”

“There’s no road map for this type of growth,” said Bull.

But Bull believes the COVID-19 contacts they have made should bode well for the future.

“All of the equipment we’ve brought in, all of the hoods can all be used for a variety of molecular tests, influenza, respiratory, women’s health testing,” says Bull.

Their goal, she says, is to continue to grow. And to keep the people they need to hire now.

Because hire them, they must, she says, to meet the demand.