Coronavirus Testing US - What to Expect

COVID-19 Testing: What to Expect if You Need It

The medical field is always changing as we test new methods and treatments and learn more about the human body and the things that can go wrong with it. This constant change is rarely so obvious to the public as it has been during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One particular area of change related to the coronavirus pandemic is the testing we use. For some of us, depending on where we work, the testing might be routine. For others, we might not need to be tested unless we are exposed.

If you’re not sure what to expect or the testing protocols around you begin to change, here’s what you might be able to expect based on the current COVID-19 tests in use.

When to Expect Testing

As health care professionals, we work in a variety of settings and facilities. Each place determines testing protocols based on their administration’s infection control policies, their patient population and specialty, and their local and state guidelines.

  • Routine testing. In some cases, testing might be routine for everyone working in the facility. Some facilities require every health care professional to present test results regularly, such as every two weeks. 
  • Randomized testing. While much less common, some facilities might request their health care professionals to be randomly tested. This may be more common for those health care professionals working on COVID-19 units.
  • Exposed-based and symptoms-based testing. Other facilities base testing on whether or not you’ve had exposure if you’re showing symptoms, and/or if a doctor or other designated health care professional recommends you for testing due to various risk factors. This is the most common strategy for testing.

Whatever your facility’s policies, it’s important to follow not only their testing guidelines but the testing recommendations of your state’s health department and the testing of health care personnel recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Whether or not your facility requires you to get tested, seek out the advice of your primary care provider if you’ve been exposed to someone with a positive test or if you begin to show signs and symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild they may be. 

Where to Get Testing

Most facilities will recommend you get testing at a designated testing location, which you can either find through their recommendation or through your state’s health departments and local clinics.

As the pandemic continues, testing has become somewhat more easily available and accessible at primary care clinics and established testing site locations. Larger facilities might even contract out to have someone available to perform testing, or they may have testing established on-site that can be done by designated employees. 

Testing Types

As our understanding and research of the coronavirus has developed, so have our testing methods. Currently, the most common testing methods you’ll encounter are nasal swabs or saliva tests. 


The most effective nasal swabs go far back into the nose to collect samples from the back of the nose or throat. They may be the commonly-used nasopharyngeal swab test or an oropharyngeal or deep nasal swab.

This can be uncomfortable for many people depending on the structure of your nose, your gag reflex, and the technique and skill of the testing professional performing the swab. 

Many testing centers and facilities use these types of tests due to their availability and the fact that their policies and training for these tests have been fairly consistent since the beginning of the pandemic.


While initially, the medical field was concerned that saliva-based testing wasn’t as effective or as accurate as the nasal swabs, research has shown it can be just as effective when done correctly.

In order to do saliva testing, you’ll spit into the testing tube to the fill line and give it back to the testing worker. It’s incredibly simple and painless. Processing and turnaround time for saliva testing is just as fast as nasal swab testing. 

Be vigilant and aware of potential exposures, any symptoms, and the policies at the facilities you work in, so you know when you need testing and how best to get it. By keeping up on testing as needed, you can help ensure that you’re doing everything in your power to prevent spreading the virus to fellow health care professionals or the patients under your care.