Each and every person who works in a clinical laboratory has the professional responsibility and the ethical duty to protect the safety of our patients. The ASCLS Code of Ethics includes Duty to the Patient, ensuring that each patient receives the highest quality of care according to current standards of practice. In addition, one of the statements in the ASCLS Pledge to the Profession is that each patient should receive care that is safe, effective, efficient, timely, equitable, and patient-centered. We all have a professional and ethical responsibility to build a culture of patient safety, not only in the laboratory, but throughout the healthcare facility.
Laboratory practitioners are important healthcare team members in the realm of patient safety because of their scientific-based focus in advancements in standardizing processes and validating measurements in their everyday quality activities. Laboratory professionals can recognize and identify potential errors and vulnerabilities in the total testing process. The laboratory, unlike other areas of healthcare, has been at the forefront of using technology to implement standardizations that allow for error reduction and improved quality outcomes.
How can I, as a laboratory professional, advocate for patient safety?
- Recognize that the patient is the focus of our practice
- Help patients and their families understand their laboratory testing, from specimen collection to result reporting
- Collaborate with other health professionals on clinical care teams to achieve improvements in patient care
- Create a blame-free environment in the laboratory, so that errors will be reported and investigated
- Encourage the study of errors and near misses to find out what happened, why it happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again
- Identify key measures and monitor their impact on patient safety as part of the laboratory’s quality improvement activities
- Improve communication, not only with laboratory staff, but with all other healthcare professionals
- Maintain professional competency by being a lifelong learner
- Identify critical and emerging patient safety issues, and suggest effective methods for reducing patient safety risks
- Encourage the addition of patient safety education into laboratory science curricula and within facility continuing education programs
All members of the healthcare team are responsible to see that no harm occurs to patients. As laboratory professionals, we need to advocate for improved patient outcomes, and consistency and accountability in our workplaces. We need to develop and maintain high quality practice standards for all Laboratory services to assure patient safety and reduce medical errors associated with laboratory medicine.