Saturday, September 30, 2006

Thoughts on hospital specimens

It has been quite awhile since I last posted. Our lab's business seemingly has doubled since then. The specimens come in bags - some chock full. It's like the "I Love Lucy" show where she and Ethel can't keep up with the assembly line.

The in-house specimens are fraught with paperwork errors. I'm not sure why this is so. It didn't used to be this bad. Hospitals are going to online paperless systems. These "paperless" systems require paper. This is evidently a difficult concept for nursing personnel. We request orders time and time again. The orders are entered into the computer, and then they just send the specimen without the order. We need to see paperwork and have a tangible record. This has been going on now for nearly two years, and there's a hard core of nurses that just don't get it.

One of our techs called a blood culture up to the floor tonight. The nurse wasn't writing anything down. I'm hoping the doctor got notified. Nurses are incredibly overworked. So are we. The baby boomers aren't even in their sixties yet. I shudder to think what it's going to be like in twenty years. The only growth industry in the US is health care, and nobody will be able to afford it except the ultra rich.

Our new computer system requires that each bottle in a blood culture be labelled with a container ID. The label used to say aerobic and anaerobic, but the translation from aerobic--> blue bottle and anaerobic--> red bottle was just too difficult. So they changed the labels to say RED and BLUE. Can anyone explain to me why the RED label consistently ends up on the BLUE bottle, and the BLUE label the RED bottle? WHY is this so damned difficult???

If I were teaching nursing classes, I would require a course in specimen labelling. I would require all nurses to have a pen around their necks at all times. There would be someone who double checks all specimens before they go to the lab tube system so that a NAME and a REQUISITION goes with each one. Why is this so hard to do????

Also, why do new lab computer systems take MORE time than the old ones? Our old system was fast, efficient, and totally non-fancy. There was white script on a black background. It was not a windows system. Everything was via keyboard and a mouse was not used. We could whip through our work and order specimens in a flash. However, this version is not being supported any more. Now we have a system that tracks every single tube that goes anywhere. It takes forever to order anything. There are drop down menus, mouse maneuvers, and keyboard combos (ALT L, AOT O, etc.) that call up various functions. This is all spelled out on a screen that has about 5 point type so you can't see anything unless you get real close. The ALT L (or whatever letter) is prompted by a L with an underline (that's nearly invisible to see). There are LOTS of these on every screen, so you have to sort of memorize them for what you have to do. By the end of the night I'm just tired of reading all this small print.

So, do all these innovations cut down on hospital errors? To answer that question, does electronic voting cut down on errors in elections?

I'm going to sign off now. I've had a busy night......