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Why Is Proper Specimen Collection So Important?

Posted: April 24, 2018

Proper Specimen Collection

When a patient is diagnosed and treated, the lab tests that doctors run play an important role in helping patients get better. Effective health plans depend on the accuracy of those test results. To ensure that accuracy, it is vitally important for all healthcare workers to handle specimen collection with the greatest care.

Proper Sterilization

As a healthcare worker or lab personnel, you must follow strict techniques and guidelines as you collect a specimen. Keeping your working environment and the tools you use sterile and free from contaminants is vital. Infection control starts with you!

It is also important to properly dispose of contaminated specimens and other biological materials. For example, every lab technician using blood draw needles must follow procedures to keep the needle sterile. These sterilization precautions ensure the safety of your patients and yourself. Mistakes can harm your, your patient, and even patients following them. You could also compromise the specimen that you collect and make it worthless to the doctor.

Proper Procedure

Proper patient identification and accurate labeling of specimens helps with quality assurance. Whether you’re a nurse, medical assistant, or phlebotomist, your first step when collecting any specimen will be to review the test description.  Make sure you have the right patient getting the right test. Also, affirm that the patient followed guidelines about fasting or any other dietary or medication restrictions they were told to do before the test. You need to understand what the test is for and how much of a specimen you will need to collect. When collecting the specimen, follow proper procedure, use the correct collection materials and pay attention to how the specimen is handled and stored. All of these procedures help ensure that the quality of the specimen is maintained. This shouldn’t be an issue if the proper materials and containers are used. Appropriate transport systems and quick delivery of specimens to the lab are also crucial since many specimens can only be stored for a short time before they begin to deteriorate. For example, bacterial cultures must not be stored for more than 24 hours before sending to the lab. Also, specimens that are sensitive to cold, such as specimens from ears, eyes, and genitals, shouldn’t be refrigerated.

Errors and Their Consequence

A poorly trained technician might neglect to properly label a specimen or include the right information on the test form. Imagine the wrong test being performed for the wrong patient? Or results meant for patient A going to patient B? The lab needs to know the tests to run, as well as how to get information back to the patient. That’s why it is so important to double check your labels before sending them to the lab.  Another common mistake is that the quantity of the specimen isn’t sufficient to conduct the test. And sometimes the lids of specimen containers are loosened and can result in leakage or contamination. Make sure your containers don’t leak! And if a mistake does occur, it is important to inform your supervisor and your patients so they can come in quickly for another test.

Another important component to proper specimen collection is making your patient feel at ease. If you’re drawing blood, you don’t want your patient to move around, feel faint, or even pass out. What can you do to calm jittery nerves? If you want some real-world experience on how to collect specimens in a healthcare career, check out Career Quest Learning Centers! Once you complete your training you could go on to find rewarding work at hospitals, doctors’ offices, and labs. Call us at our Lansing (877-481-4930) campus to learn more now.