Carolyn Sabady, PBT(ASCP)

It is no secret that phlebotomists and laboratory personnel carry a significant amount of weight on their shoulders. Whether they are assisting in a stat situation, processing a sample, or acting as a liaison between the patient care team members and the medical laboratory technologist, laboratory personnel need to be resilient. Building resiliency in our laboratory personnel will not only keep team members engaged, but will also increase productivity, and most importantly, increase patient satisfaction.

What is resiliency? Whether faced with a disaster, tragedy, or a difficult work situation, resiliency is how well a person can adapt to the events in their life. According to Psychology Today, “Resiliency is not some magical quality; it takes real mental work to transcend hardship.” The question then becomes, how can we build this quality?

“Building resiliency in our laboratory personnel will not only keep team members engaged, but will also increase productivity, and most importantly, increase patient satisfaction.”

Compartmentalize your Cognitive Workload

Knowing that laboratory personnel across the nation are overloaded with information from a variety of sources, one way to build resiliency is to compartmentalize your cognitive workload. For instance, you receive a phone call to add on testing, you are asked to do a stat collection in the operating room, and you have that timed troponin that is close to becoming overdue. What do you do?

It is a natural reaction to figure out how one must manage all the tasks at once, however, simply asking yourself, “What is the priority?” is a simple way of avoiding a catastrophe. The add-on testing may not need to be completed immediately, but the stat collection in the operating room would. Reaching out to the patient care team member to communicate you have stat collection in the operating room would alleviate the pressure of missing the timed troponin.

Develop Mental Agility

Another tactic that is useful is to develop mental agility. When stressors hit, you want to respond to the situation rather than react. The doctor or patient care team member that is upset because they did not receive his or her results in a timely fashion calls angry and upset. Instead of responding with an emotion such as, “I just have too much going on,” pause. And take a moment to reflect on the situation from a neutral standpoint—“I understand the concern that you did not receive your results in a timely fashion, but I would be happy to assist in figuring out what the delay was.”

According to Rich Fernandez in Harvard Business Review, “Being mentally agile, and decentering stress when it occurs, enables the core resilience skill of ‘response flexibility.’” Fernandez also states that Linda Graham, renowned psychologist, describes this as “the ability to pause, step back, reflect, shift perspectives, create options, and choose wisely.”

Knowing that the laboratory is multifaceted and that we have interactions with all areas of healthcare, we need to promote resiliency within our teams. Stress is bound to occur, but it is how we compartmentalize it and reflect from a neutral standpoint that will assist us in being productive, engaged, and provide the best care for our patients.

Carolyn Sabady is phlebotomy supervisor at ACL Laboratories in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.