A hospital is a faced paced dynamic environment involving private and personal life changing events to the patients it serves. Patients depend on the doctors, nurses, and laboratory technicians, all persons that will be involved in their care, to have the training and experience to provide the highest quality of care and safe, effective treatment.
Publication of the report “To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System” in 2000 has brought to public attention to the numerous errors that can occur in the course of medical care. The report has led to public awareness that medical professionals are not perfect and expectations of perfection, although preferred, are unrealistic. The report has also increased awareness to the need closely monitor and document medical errors so that preventative processes can be implemented.
The key to error prevention is quality education and training. Knowledge of preanalytical errors that affect the outcome of a lab test, such as incorrect blood draw order, analytical errors such as failure to spin down a blood sample, and postanalytical errors such as delayed reporting of results, are essential for the laboratory personnel to be aware of and understand their importance. In addition to recognizing these errors, the laboratory personnel must know how to make the necessary corrections.
The importance of following laboratory procedure cannot be stressed enough. Although individual techniques may differ, such as the way a label is placed on a tube, the procedures for a particular lab test need to be followed exactly as stated; short cuts are not permissible in laboratory testing and can lead to erroneous results.
As Medical Laboratory Scientists we can assist in preventing errors by strictly adhering to the principles in the Code of Ethics of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science. This code puts patient safety first. Professional attributes are clearly stated and are in the best interest of the patient, the facility, and the laboratory technician.