In Quality We Trust
Our desire to achieve quality laboratory work often takes a mechanistic approach; we tend to view quality work exclusively in terms of how well our instruments work, and how completely we meet the standards for pre-analytic, analytic and post-analytic phases of testing and reporting. And, indeed, these contain the benchmarks through which we judge quality: Are all specimens properly labeled? Has all the quality control been performed as required? Was calibration and maintenance done in a timely manner? Have all the reports generated been reviewed for accuracy? And so on.
All of the above is true and valid; but we must not forget that the laboratory is also a human endeavor, and that we cannot ignore the role that human interaction plays. If the standard analytic phases discussed above are the bricks of a quality operation, then the human factor is the mortar that holds it all together.
We will review several salient components of this as it relates to the operation of laboratories and how significantly these can impact a laboratory even if all the instruments are new, the facility is new, and the volume of patient testing is steadily increasing.
Let's start with TRUST: defined as a belief that something is true; that there is confidence in expectation; and assurance in certainty. Within the laboratory, this can manifest itself in many ways:
- Belief in the technical abilities and reliability of your co-workers
- Confidence in the sincerity of your managers that they are truly listening when you talk to them
- Comfort in knowing that when you report a problem with the laboratory operation, that you will be viewed constructively
- Trust that all staff have the patients' best interest at heart.
If trust among staff is not present, communication deteriorates, problem solving is affected; and consequently quality is compromised.