Professionalism in Healthcare: The Eye of the Beholder
Phlebotomy Today-STAT! continues our series on professionalism in healthcare. This month, we discuss how our personal appearance affects the patient's perception of the quality of care he/she receives. Future topics will include attitude, phone etiquette, and professional certification.
Much of the impression patients develop is based on our appearance. The following is a list of the many ways in which personal appearance affects a patient's perception of the care he/she will receive.
Nails and piercings
Editor To Address Armed Forces ConferenceDennis J. Ernst MT(ASCP), editor of the Phlebotomy Today family of newsletters and director of the Center for Phlebotomy Education, will address the annual conference of the Society of Armed Forces Medical Laboratory Scientists this month in New Orleans. The assembly will consist of hundreds of military personnel representing medical facilities functioning under all branches of the armed forces.
Ernst will present a lecture titled "Avoiding Phlebotomy-Related Injuries and Litigation." The topic will detail specimen collection errors that can injure patients and lead them to file lawsuits against the employer. Ernst will refer to his files as an expert witness in phlebotomy-related litigation to illustrate key concepts in risk management. A video containing the presentation's content is available from the Center for Phlebotomy Education at www.phlebotomy.com/Video3.html
Product Spotlight: Skin Punctures & Newborn Screens
This Month in Phlebotomy Today
Here’s what subscribers to Phlebotomy Today, the Center for Phlebotomy Education’s paid-subscription newsletter (currently in its 9th year of publication), are reading about this month:
For subscription rates and to subscribe to Phlebotomy Today, visit www.phlebotomy.com/PhlebotomyToday.html. The current month’s issue will be emailed to you immediately upon subscribing.
Featured FAQ: Order of Draw with Citrate Tubes
Question: It is my understanding CLSI changed the order of draw in 2003 so that it is now 1) blood cultures; 2) blue tops; 3) red tops; 4) green tops; 5) purple tops; 6) gray tops. It is also my understanding that if a blue top is the only tube to be drawn, it no longer needs a waste tube unless it is being drawn with a butterfly. This is contrary to several things I had read in the past (i.e., that the clot-activator tubes should not be drawn before anticoagulant tubes because of possible contamination, and also that tissue thromboplastin in the needle could interfere with a blue top drawn by itself). Can you help clarify this for me please?
Response: No study has ever proven that tissue thromboplastin interferes with coagulation studies. It’s always been speculation until the late 1990s when studies proved that drawing a discard tube before the citrate tube made no difference in protime and aPTT results. Therefore, CLSI discontinued their recommendation for a discard tube in 1998 when drawing a protime or aPTT.(1,2)
However, studies have not been conducted on any affect of tissue thromboplastin on special factor assays. CLSI guidelines and standards, therefore, state that evidence of tissue thromboplastin contamination is consequential at best, and that facilities should establish their own policy in regards to special factor assays.
There is certainly no harm done when drawing a discard tube, it's just not necessary when testing for protimes and aPTTs. Of course, discard tubes are still recommended when drawing with a butterfly set and the blue top is the first or only tube drawn. This is to prevent short sampling when the air in the tubing enters the citrate tube. The discard tube need not be filled, but only applied long enough to prime the line of the winged collection set. The discard tube can be another citrate tube or a plain, non-additive tube. As far as the clot activator contaminating an anticoagulant tube, there is no evidence in the literature that this occurs or that it affects results.
Each month, PT--STAT! will publish one of the hundreds of phlebotomy FAQs in the growing database of questions and answers available in Phlebotomy Central, the members-only section of the Center for Phlebotomy Education's web site. For information on joining Phlebotomy Central, visit www.phlebotomy.com/PhlebotomyCentral.html.
What Would You Do?
Each month, What Would You Do? presents a different case study, then asks readers to contribute their ideas as to how each situation would best be handled. The following month, selected responses will be chosen by the editor and published (sender will be identified by first name and state only). The most accurate, well written response will receive a free "Accurate Results Begin With Me!® t-shirt. The exercise will conclude with a review of the selected submissions and a discussion of the standards pertinent to the case study.
(Editor's Note: I have a personal experience with the very scenario described. When I encountered an overfilled sharps container, I took it upon myself to seal and dispose of it. While forcing the lid down to lock the container, a contaminated sharp poked through the bottom of the hard plastic and into my thumb. Had I listened to many of you first, that would not have happened. Hopefully, my esteemed readers will not repeat my mistake.)
Responses to January 's scenario reflect a well-informed PT-STAT! readership. We were impressed with the quality and quantity of responses. But our favorite response came from Kenneth Laycock of Australia. It also happens to be the most correct and articulate. We don't judge responses based on humor, but Kenneth secured his prize-winning response with a dash of spunk.
"Firstly, I would don the accoutrements of a medieval knight and then proceed to remove the offending article in an empty and sturdy very thick plastic container with a secure lid, which I would then deposit in an appropriate diposal bin ready for incineration. I would then find the last culprit who was negligent and place them in the wheelie bin together with the protected sharps holder to contemplate what might have been should some unfortunate soul come into contact with the cocktail of spent sharps and blood products. In all of this I would re-educate all the staff with the prospect of a life with the things you wouldn't discuss with your friends."
For his wit and wisdom, Kenneth will receive a free Accurate Results Begin With Me!® t-shirt. Kenneth was not alone in his angst against the offending party. Fifteen percent reported that they would personally hunt down the culprit who put them at risk. Interestingly, only 45 percent said they'd report an overfilled sharps container. Of those, two thirds would also dispose of the hazard themselves. But it's the means of handling the overfilled container that we found surprisingly varied. Of the 75 percent who would dispose of the hazard themselves, 80 percent would carefully place the overfilled container inside a larger sharps disposal unit. Other suggestions were to fish out the overflow with a hemostat and move them into an empty container, dump the overflow into a empty container, or just simply close the container.
Typical of most comments is this one:
"You should never attempt to stick another needle into the bin as you are risking a needle stick injury from an unknown source. Contact the housekeeping or correct department for handling sharps bins or medical waste and report the matter in accordance to your hospital's policies. You should also report it...."
According to OSHA, sharps containers should be "replaced routinely and not be allowed to overfill." Therefore, overfilling is an OSHA violation. Outside of OSHA jurisdictions, overfilling violates every healthcare worker's right to a safe working environment. OSHA states "When moving containers of contaminated sharps from the area of use, the containers shall be...closed immediately prior to removal or replacement to prevent spillage or protrusion of contents during handling, storage, transport, or shipping." Clearly that can't be accomplished when the device is overflowing.
OSHA doesn't provide too many details on how to handle an overfilled sharps container, but the suggestion of respondents to place it inside a larger sharps container seems to be the most popular. In fact, OSHA states that sharps containers should be "placed in a secondary container if leakage is possible." It seems that "leakage" would include contaminated needles that prevent closure. However, moving an overflowing sharps container into a secondary container is not without risk. If contaminated sharps are overflowing to an extent that movement may cause a sharp to fall out and pierce the hand carrying it, then grasping and relocating the container with a mechanical device such as a pair of large tongs instead may be safer. Depending on the extent of overfill, using hemostats to remove enough overflowing sharps into an empty container until the lid can be sealed might be the safer option. Facilities should establish and publicize their protocol for handling overfilled sharps containers to prevent the riskiest options from being exercised. This may mean the notification of specialized medical waste handlers in your facility to eliminate the hazard.
The Compliance Directive OSHA issues to its inspectors to provide guidance on enforcement of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard states "The Compliance Officer should ensure that sharps containers are being replaced routinely to prevent overfilling." It indicates a potential for two citations to be issued should an inspector find an overfilled sharps container; one for the hazard and one for inadequate training. Here's the text from the Compliance Directive:
Overfilling of sharps containers should be cited under paragraph (d)(4)(iii)(A)(2)(iii). A citation for inadequate training on work practices, paragraph (g)(2)(vii)(F), should be grouped with the citation for this paragraph if the overfilled containers are present because of lack of training.
OSHA doesn't insist overfilled sharps containers be reported. However, managing the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens requires those who can modify behavior in your facility to be made aware of the potential so that preventative measures can be taken. Failure to report such risks only serves to preserve and perpetuate them. How will you feel if next week someone at your facility was exposed to a contaminated sharp in an overfilled container because you failed to report one last week? If it's not your facility's policy to report such hazards, make it your own moral obligation. Otherwise, one of your coworkers may soon be paid a visit by an Australian medieval knight named Kenneth pushing a wheelie bin.
Center Offers Free Phlebotomy Today Archive CD
Ever since the first issue of Phlebotomy Today---the paid-subscription parent of PT-STAT!---was published online in 2000, thousands of healthcare professionals around the world have been clamoring for access to the archives. Are you one of them? If so, you'll be happy to know the Center for Phlebotomy Education is releasing all eight years of our back issues on CD.
The Archive disc contains all 93 issues, and includes the inaugural February 2000 issue through December 2007. Users can search all articles by keyword or browse each individual issue. Do you want every article we've published on hemolysis? Type it in the search window and you'll be presented with links to 19 specific back issues. Enter "potassium" and you'll find links to 26 issues that discuss potassium ready for your review. The archives are in printer-friendly PDF format and will require Adobe Acrobat 7.0 to view and print. (A link to Acrobat is provided on the CD.) The CD also includes all of the editor's popular "On a Personal Note" essays.
As a special to PT-STAT! readers, all new subscribers to Phlebotomy Today will receive a copy of the archive CD free. The special applies to individual as well as institutional subscriptions. (To view a sample issue of Phlebotomy Today, visit www.phlebotomy.com/Newsletter.html.) For readers who only want the archive CD, it can be purchased for $49.95 from the Center's 2008 catalog (being mailed this month) or web site. The scheduled release date is February 20.
(Editor's note: Although each issue includes the "Tip of the Month", the single-page, printer-friendly version is not included in the archive CD. That's because the Center is in the process of compiling an attractively designed collection of the Tips for release later this year.)
For more information on the archives CD, visit www.phlebotomy.com/PhlebotomyToday.html#ArchivesDisc
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