I went to school for medical laboratory technology in the 1980’s. I received my Bachelor of Science in the 1990’s.  And now I work with employees who were born in the 1980’s and the 1990’s.  Even scarier, one of my co-workers was born in the year 2000.  Time flies when you are having fun.

From the beginning of my clinical education, my instructors stressed the importance of quality in all 3 areas of the analytical process:  pre-analytical, analytical, and post-analytical.  As a med tech, this became a way of life.  Every morning, I brush my teeth before leaving the house.  Every morning in the lab, I perform instrument maintenance and run quality control samples.  Every night, I brush my teeth before bed.  At the end of every shift, I perform any necessary shut down process of my instruments, and store my samples according to SOP.

I took for granted that in every facility where I worked, the employees responsible for the pre-analytical and post-analytical portion of the process were as diligent as the techs who worked the analytical tasks.

I am now in a position where I am responsible for the pre-analytical portion as well.  And I discovered that there is a whole other world of laboratory science that is just as important as the analytical functions in the lab.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not implying that the employees are not working hard.  Nor am I implying that they are doing a bad job.  What I am saying is that their duties are just as important to quality laboratory testing as the duties performed by the med techs. The difference is that years are dedicated to education and training for the med techs, compared to the days or weeks that the specimen accession team receives.

Most of that team has been hired with a high school diploma as the highest level of education.  They have not dedicated 2 to 4 years in college learning about biology and cells.  Everything they know about specimen handling and processing is learned on the job.  They are relying on their coworkers for knowledge.  And if they are lucky, they have a few policies and procedures which can be referenced.

As I get to know my accessioning team, I find myself feeling like they have been done an incredible disservice.  And I find myself wanting to right this wrong.

Over the next 4 weeks, I intend to read and review every procedure and policy in the accessioning area.  I will make certain that there is a procedure and a policy for every task this group is expected to perform.  I will take the time to get to know each employee.  I will understand their strengths and weaknesses, and help them to understand the importance they have in the analytical process. I will show them the value they bring to the quality laboratory results we release.

By strengthening the pre-analytical process, I will improve the overall quality of the laboratory.  I will improve patient care for all of our patients.  And if I can improve even one employees feeling of self-worth and value, then I will have done my job well.

Have you looked at your pre-analytical process lately?  Have you taken the time to see that the specimens you receive are processed and handled properly?  Have you considered the improvements that can be made by looking at this area a little bit harder?

I challenge you to join me.  Let’s improve quality, through the entire analytical process.

About The Author

Margaret Blaetz began her career as a Medical Laboratory Technician specializing in Microbiology and obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree at Glassboro State College (Rowan University). While employed as an EMR trainer at Regional Women’s Health Management, LLC Margaret’s expertise in medical technology and project management were called into play with the planning, credentialing and opening of the Regional Women’s Laboratory. In 2012, Margaret expanded her credentials to include Certified CLIA Compliance Professional (AAPOL). Margaret serves as a CLIA regulatory resource for more than 30 Physicians Office Laboratories. Margaret’s passions include Community Theater and hound dog rescue groups; SOS Beagles NJ and Tri-State Basset Rescue. In her spare time, Margaret and her husband enjoy camping and working as Highway Hero Rescue Transporters.