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Our envoys to the outside world.

Our envoys to the outside world

As Charles Dickens might have written, "It is the best of jobs, it is the worst of jobs.'

Those who perform it can make an important contribution to patient care, but they work difficult hours for low pay, and they get little respect. I'm talking about phlebotomy, a job that most of us have done at one time or another.

Medical technologists who still perform phlebotomy rounds look upon blood collection as an early morning nuisance to be tolerated until they can get down to the real work--specimen analysis. They don't realize that their dual role can be a plus in maintaining quality assurance of laboratory testing.

The phlebotomist/technologist is able to compare a patient's clinical appearance with laboratory test results and quickly verify out-of-range results. Phlebotomy also demands a level of interaction with physician and nursing staffs that usually fosters better communication.

Because it just doesn't make financial sense anymore to have a baccalaureate-level employee as a phlebotomist, most hospitals now hire individuals specifically trained to perform this service alone. What qualities should you look for when hiring a professional blood collector? Technique is obviously important. But equally important is the manner in which the specimen is collected. I can't think of any other job in the laboratory where such traits as personality, punctuality, communicativeness, and appearance are so critical to job performance.

As a manager, I don't get too upset about a complaint that a blood collector failed to hit a vein on the first try or gave a patient a hematoma. Such events are frequently difficult for the collector to control. What bothers me more are reports that a phlebotomist did not properly communicate to a patient what was being done, or was rude, or perhaps worst of all, neglected to verify patient identification. Such inexcusable, preventable activities cast phlebotomists, and the laboratory, in a poor light.

Phlebotomists represent the clinical laboratory to most physicians and nurses, and to virtually all patients. Because the laboratory's image is heavily dependent upon their performance, it is imperative that we put our best foot forward with phlebotomy personnel.

How well blood collectors do their jobs can usually be determined through patient surveys. Most hospitals, in an effort to improve service, have patients fill out post-discharge questionnaires. One area that's often covered is the quality of laboratory services. The average patient isn't in a position to judge the level of accuracy or turnaround time of laboratory results, but can respond to how painlessly blood was drawn and how courteous the collector was.

Given the high visibility of phlebotomists, it is important that we attract and retain the most qualified individuals. Fortunately, the interviewing and selection process works well when recruiting for this position.

During a phlebotomist job interview, we can observe how punctual, communicative, courteous, and neat in appearance the candidate is. It is relatively easy to pick out the winners from the losers when interviewing blood collectors.

To a degree, phlebotomy requires expertise in both medicine and public relations. Throw in early morning hours and less than outstanding salary, and it is apparent that the position calls for a special type of person.

All of us in the clinical laboratory should realize this. We should appreciate that we depend on phlebotomists to act as our envoys to the outside world and, of course, to supply us with timely and accurately collected specimens so we can do our jobs.
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:phlebotomist-technologist
Author:Maratea, James M.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Jul 1, 1986
Words:575
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