Saturday, February 25, 2017

Take chance on me (Musings on transfusion professionals collaborating)

Stay tuned: Revisions will occur
February's blog was stimulated by the planned transition of an informal mailing list of Canada's Transfusion Safety Officers (TSOs) to the CSTM website. I've been the list manager and moderator since the list ('transfusion')  was created in 2000. The blog is shorter than usual, which is likely a good thing.

As part of the move, we did a survey of 'transfusion' subscribers, many of whom do not have the job title of TSO, but perform many of the same functions. Historically, mainly for financial reasons, most subscribers are Canadian but we've had a few foreign subscribers, including ones from Ireland, Switzerland, UK, and USA.

What is this blog about and why might you want to read it? Many other transfusion-related communication mechanisms (workshops,conferences) exist but today it's often electronic communication, such as websites with discussion forums. In transfusion medicine, PathLabTalk comes to mind, whose BloodBankTalk participants are mainly USA and UK medical laboratory technologists / medical lab scientists. 

Similarly, professional associations like AABB and BBTS offer discussion forums and my experience is that most posts are by technologists.

In contrast, Canada's TSO list includes medical laboratory technologists and transfusion nurses, including blood conservation nurses, and even a few physicians.

That's a huge advantage because transfusion service laboratories and nurses who administer blood transfusion really do need to learn more about each other and appreciate the role each plays.

The blog's title derives from a 1978 ditty by Sweden's ABBA.

For decades I've been privy to the views that med lab techs/scientists have on nurses, based on anecdotal experience in hospital transfusion services.

Common themes (misconceptions?) are that RNs do NOT
  • Understand quality control procedures and lack competence to do Point of Care Testing (POCT)
  • Truly dig the importance of patient identity and understand what can go wrong. Hence they're not that concerned if patient identities on specimen labels do not EXACTLY match those on blood transfusion requisitions, because, hey, they took that sample and know it's the patient.  Hence they think the lab is being anal-retentive on what they see as minor. 
It's possible that nurses have views of their colleagues in transfusion laboratories that are not always complimentary and may be based on sterotypes. I'd love to hear some. 

Transfusion nurses have come relatively late to transfusion organizations. But physicians have belonged for ages, indeed from the get-go. They tend to dominate proceedings as evidenced by talks at annual meetings.

Yet few physicians participate in transfusion lists and forums, or on Twitter. Why not? My guess is that some think of social media such as forums, lists, and Twitter as beneath them. Perhaps some can't be bothered to interact with the hoi polloi, meaning lab techs and nurses or is that too harsh? 

Or, unlike the laboratory and nursing trench workers of the transfusion community, most physicians are too busy (can't bother?) to talk to anyone but other physicians, and only at medical rounds, conferences, etc.? Please advise. 

Three Transfusion Pros Walked Into A Bar
To illustrate my point about stereotypes among transfusion professionals, I created a joke. Yes, it's satire with a smidgen of truth.
A female doctor, medical lab technologist, and a nurse walked into the bar. Oh, great said the bartender, we have a contest tonight and you are just the ones to play it. Out came 2 glasses and the bartender said, 'Guess which one is British and which is Canadian.'
The doctor considered herself a beer aficionado and passed on asking the age and history of the brews. Feeling more knowledgeable than her colleagues, and somewhat infallible, as she often did at work, she immediately stated, based on her gut feeling: Pale lager is Canadian, dark is British.

The nurse took and recorded the vital signs, including colour and temperature. She recalled Canadian beer was more likely to be pale yellow and served cooler and that Britain had dark ales. Her guess was the same as the doctor's: Pale lager is Canadian, dark is British.
The lab tech asked if a historical record existed of the samples in the glasses and which bottles they came from, and then demanded it. When told that would be cheating, the technologist replied, 'Sorry, we in the lab don't guess about identity.'
Correct identity thanks to the lab technologist (You knew this was coming):

If only med lab techs/scientists, nurses, and physicians could get to know each other better, transfusion medicine would be a better world. I've been lucky in Alberta, Canada, thanks to the Med Lab Sci program at University of Alberta, to have taught several students who went on to become hematopathologists. Their lab background is a huge plus. 

And I know from the TSO 'transfusion' list that technologists and nurses have benefited from learning the issues and challenges each has.

For interest: In 1994 when the Internet became available at my workplace, I created a mailing list 'MEDLAB-L' for medical laboratory professionals of all disciplines. I could have gone with a transfusion list but am so glad to have opted to be inclusive. Over the years lab professionals (med lab technologists / scientists, PhD level scientists, and physicians) in all clinical labs have benefited from learning about each others' issues.

The song I chose is a 1978 ditty by Sweden's iconic ABBA. It's meant to say to nurses and med lab techs and physicians to talk to each other on social media, break down stereotypes, trust each other, because we're all in this together.
As always, comments are most welcome.