Laboratory services are a crucial aspect of healthcare services. Taking samples from patients in the form of blood, saliva, urine, faeces or other microbiological samples is a serious process and requires that specific steps are taken in order for them to yield accurate results.
If you’re still an inexperienced medical practitioner, starting work in a lab can be daunting. Here are 4 important things to remember before you get started.
Collecting the samples in the correct manner is important. This will play a role in whether or not the samples are valid.
Be sure to use the correct method of sampling for the intended testing, and collect the samples according to the instructions provided. If the sample is to be collected by the patient themselves, be sure that the instructions provided to them are clear and specific to avoid contamination or other issues.
Storing the specimens correctly is another vital step. Samples should only be taken using sterile containers and should be delivered to the lab for storage within the given amount of time (typically no longer than one hour).
Failing to get the samples into ULT freezers in time could compromise them and affect the results, potentially leading to bacteria multiplying and generating false results, incorrect diagnoses and the prescription of unnecessary medication.
Containers holding samples should be labelled correctly and signed by the practitioner who performed the sample collection or who collected the sample and the time at which this occurred.
This information is important because the time of collection can impact the sample and how it should be stored.
Correct descriptions also ensure that the correct samples are put through the intended testing and that the results are sent on time to the correct recipient.
When collecting samples from patients, it is crucial that the instructions provided to them are clear and correct, whether the patient will be reporting to have the sample done for them or if they need to collect the sample themselves.
Patients will need to follow instructions as early as a few weeks before their sample – eliminating cigarettes or alcohol from their diet beforehand and discontinuing certain medications.
They may also need to change, limit or restrict their food and liquid intake prior to their sample collecting and will need to perform the collection at a particular time of day, or at the right time of their menstrual cycle.
Having a clear understanding of the testing to be performed is crucial, in order to be able to relay the information to your patient.
Laboratory testing might feel overwhelming, but simply being prepared and focused throughout the process will make it easy and stress-free.
Ensure that patients are provided with the correct information, that the instructions are clear and that you as the practitioner are certain of the process. Further, ensure that samples are correctly collected, stored and labelled in order to ensure that the samples are safe and not contaminated or compromised in any way.