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How the Marlborough Hospital Lab Team is Improving Results for Patients … and Each Other

The situation: While the Marlborough Lab is a vital part of the delivery of care, it faced challenges keeping up with the volume of tests needed. The lab space was not laid out in a way that made for efficient production. As a 24/7 operation, the continuity of communication between shifts was inconsistent and team unity suffered as a result.

Theresa: The lab is the hub of the hospital. People don’t realize how important all those lab results are to physicians these days, but physicians really rely on the values that they’re getting from the lab to treat their patients appropriately. Without the phlebotomists getting good samples and then the lab performing good testing, none of that can happen.

When I first became the lab manager, we had a small lab with small rooms. We had a big room in the back that was utilized primarily as our break room. It had a big empty hallway to get to it, so there was a lot of underutilized space. So about six years ago, we undertook a major renovation for the lab. To make the space more efficient I got out the graph paper, and we cut out the sizes of our equipment and moved them around until we figured out where we wanted them. Everyone contributed; there is a lot of value in including everyone.

Mary: Now we have timely results. One of our biggest customers is the emergency room; they need the results quickly because they can’t do anything without lab results. Turnaround time is a big factor in the laboratory and we turn things around very quickly. We have a pneumatic tube system that brings the specimens right over to us. We can process things very efficiently. And, we have built a great relationship with the people in the emergency room; they know they can count on us.

I must say, as a team we have great energy. Theresa has created a unique environment. She’s our leader, but she’s extremely supportive and very sensitive to the needs of everybody on the team. We have different people, we have a very diverse team, people from different ethnic backgrounds, different ages and from different areas of the world. Theresa’s very sensitive to our needs and has created a team where we have each other’s back.

Swathi: Yes, everybody’s trained in all the departments, so everybody can do hematology, blood banking, chemistry, urine analysis, coagulations. This means that if someone’s very busy, their co-workers just jump in, because everybody knows what to do. They can help each other. We are like a small family.

I feel empowered. I didn’t speak English before I started working here in the lab, and they didn’t make me feel like I was a non-English-speaking person. They always welcomed me and I was always ready to work.

I consider myself a caregiver because I do help patients indirectly. Patients and doctors depend on me because I give them results, and after that, they can treat the patients with fast, accurate information.

We have our huddle every day at 3 pm. We look forward to it, because every day at 3 pm we know what is going on in every department. Is there any issue? What is going on? The next shift depends on the huddle too.

Rachel: As a phlebotomist I do see patients directly. Depending on how the full the house is I might see anywhere between 20 and 50 patients in a day. I consider myself a caregiver because often I’m the first face a patient sees when they come to the lab. And a lot of these patients come in nervous, stressful, anxious, and it’s up to us to comfort them to get them through the whole procedure.

I love the team here; we have such a diverse mix of levels of knowledge. Some people are new, some have been there for a while so you learn a lot from all these different perspectives. We communicate well. We make sure we tell the next person what’s going on or if there’s anything special they need to know. We’ve very open about that. Our huddle tends to keep us all on the same page as to what’s going on. If there are any changes we need to know about, they are discussed in the huddle. We recognize each other’s achievements. We talk about any ideas that we might have to improve patient care and make things better in the lab.

I just think everybody in our team is great. It’s funny because Theresa refers to us as a big happy family. And it really is because you can talk to anybody about anything; everybody gets along great. I think if you’re happy in your job, it’s going to reflect everywhere. If the patients come in and they see that you’re happy, it’s contagious. Happiness is contagious.

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