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Stepwise Success

We’re All in This Together

Published December 2, 2015 5:56 AM by Scott Warner

An “us versus them” attitude is common in all workplaces. Lab techs don’t understand nurses or nurses don’t understand lab techs. I’ve heard techs whine many times over the years, “If only the nurses could come down here and watch what we do for a day.” Never once have I seen a tech volunteer to do what a nurse does.

But the same attitude can exist in the lab between techs and phlebotomists. “It’s too complicated for the phlebotomists” or “they have to check with me first” are comments I’ve heard. Perhaps, this is true in your workplace.

One of my first jobs was as a phlebotomist in a 450-bed hospital in Maryland. That is honestly one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had. I ran all day, every day with very little downtime. There was always paperwork, baskets to be restocked, and cleaning when there wasn’t patients. In one day I could collect blood on all ages, all wards, trauma cases, isolation rooms, and psych wards. It was an eye-opening experience.

I recall one young man who was admitted to ICU. He was apparently sick but looked very healthy. I drew his blood, chatted, and left. It may have been two months later when I drew his blood again in an inpatient isolation room. He was emaciated and dying. That was a tremendous shock to me, and I’ve never forgotten him. Later I learned he had died of stomach cancer. It’s this kind of thing phlebotomists see more than many techs.

Techs and phlebotomists have different skill sets and different responsibilities, but we’re all in this together. Because phlebotomists are on the front lines, interact with our patients, and collect many if not most of our specimens, they need to be included in the what and why of workflow changes.

For example, if there is a problem with ED specimens not matching orders (either by showing up out of sync or not at all), your phlebotomists are an excellent creative source. They should be empowered to suggest ideas, work through problems, and present possible solutions to the group.

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About this Blog


    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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