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Answering your questions on dealing with mishandled specimens and benefiting from professional training.

QA coworker and I caught our lab supervisor handling a specimen fraudulently, which could have affected the patient's medical treatment. A test that required frozen serum was ordered, but the serum specimen sat in the refrigerator for 5 days before my supervisor sent it to the reference lab. When we questioned her on the test report, she said she had called the reference lab with an add-on. We know this is impossible because the reference lab would have denied the add-on, having not received a frozen specimen for the test. Who should this be reported to?

A The panelists recommend that you document the details of this incident, including names, dates, times, and copies of the test request and reports. Marti Bailey urges that you omit generalities such as "sometime last month."

Advises Linda Blacklidge, "Obtain the patient report, which should have the specimen collection date on it. Compare it to your send-out log. If it was an add-on, the specimen order date should be the same as the specimen collection date. If another specimen was sent, the receipt date will be 5 days later. Alternately, the order date could be 5 days later, but the specimen date will still be the original date."

Blacklidge asks, "Is it possible that your supervisor may not realize that the patient results could be adversely affected by the specimen not being frozen? Depending on your relationship with your supervisor, you could present this information to her, emphasizing the obvious discrepancy. Although this might be a difficult encounter, you are at least giving her an opportunity to correct her own error."

Lynne Garcia asks, "Why didn't one of you take it on yourself to follow up with the specimen? It sounds like you were waiting to catch the supervisor in something that was inappropriate. I'm not excusing what the supervisor did, but it doesn't sound like anyone had the patient's best interests in mind.

"I would document everything you observed (don't guess) and ask your supervisor about specifics. If you don't get a satisfactory answer, forward your observations plus her comments to her boss. You may take some heat, but I'd certainly rather be in that position than keep quiet knowing something was poorly handled and there was possible risk to the patient. I strongly suggest that the physician be called and the specimen be recollected and submitted properly to the reference lab."

The panel recommends that if the information you present in your question is correct and the supervisor understands that the sample was not valid because it had not been kept frozen, you should bring this information to your laboratory director. Then the responsibility for a confrontation will belong to the director.

Bottom line. Present the documented factual information to the laboratory director and let him or her handle this. This approach fulfills your ethical responsibility to report the incident. Do not get involved in personalities, only in the facts.

Getting more value from professional training

Q We want to make certain that our team members get the most out of attending professional meetings, seminars, and workshops paid for by the laboratory. What do you recommend?

A To get more out of attending workshops, seminars, and professional meetings, prepare ahead. Make a list of questions you want answered; jot down the people you want to talk to and network with.

Use the break times to network with your colleagues. This is a great time to make dinner plans with many different people and to talk to your peers.

Collect handouts from as many speakers as possible, even from sessions you don't attend. Write notes on the handouts and highlight important points; review them on the way home.

Too often, seminar notes get stuck in a file out of sight and out of mind. On your trip home or first thing back at the office, go over your notes and highlight actions you want to take--write them in your datebook organizer.

Marti Bailey suggests, "Consider preselecting which meetings to attend. It is important that the person who attends understands and agrees that he or she is expected to make one or more presentations to the staff on returning. The biggest payback from attending a meeting is sharing information with as many people as possible."

"Each seminar attended should help to further either an individual professional or laboratory goal," says Linda Blacklidge. "Match seminar offerings to the laboratory or individual goals and assign priorities to each goal so the funds allocated for seminars can be distributed optimally. When seminar options present themselves, this established priority list can be used in deciding whether a staff member should attend."

Michele Best recommends, "investigate the workshop provider, because all continuing education providers are not created equal. Evaluate all the speakers and send employees only to those sessions with a known track record."

Bottom line. To get maximum value from attending meetings and continuing education programs, have meeting attendees share what they learn with others. Remember that advance planning is essential.

Christopher S. Frings is an internationally known consultant and speaker on the topics of leadership, managing change, time management, reaching goals, and stress management. His consulting firm, Chris Frings & Associates, is in Birmingham, AL.
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Author:Frings, Christopher S.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2000
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