Each day hundreds of patients have their blood drawn and sent in for analysis at UHN’s Blood Lab Collection Centres. It’s often a place where patients begin their hospital journey, and as a result LMP Blood Lab staff have an important role to play in setting the tone for patient experience.
“As a first point of contact, patients will come to blood lab staff with all sorts of questions,” says Maria Amenta, LMP site lead, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and manager, specimen management. “We want to be able to provide them with answers, and direct them to tools and services that will make their hospital visit as seamless as possible.”
One of the most recent initiatives undertaken by the Blood Lab at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre focuses on the completion of the Distress Assessment and Response Tool (DART), which provides increased detection and early intervention for distress in out-patients at Princess Margaret.
Patients start by self-assessing their level of distress on provided DART iPads. That information is then sent to the patient’s ambulatory care clinic, where clinic staff assess the information. Depending on the level of distress (low, moderate, high) different support options may be provided, including nurse and oncologist intervention for high distress patients.
The DART program started in the Princess Margaret Blood Lab as a pilot project in mid-January, and Blood Lab staff were looked to for help in educating and assisting patients in the completion of distress assessments.
There were obvious concerns to consider, such as additional workload, and the possible impact on patient flow and wait times, but over the course of the pilot it became clear the Blood Lab team fully supported the initiative.
“I think staff see the impact the DART program can have on patients,” says Maria. “Our phlebotomist jumped on board as members of the patient care team, and I think the effort stems from just wanting to help patients get the care they need.”
The pilot was quickly determined a success and the DART program became fully integrated into the Princess Margaret blood lab in February. Since then, DART assessments in the blood lab have had a steady increase in completion, with 101 DART assessments completed in February, 126 in March, and 181 in April.
“Thanks to the great level of engagement of the blood collection team, and our ambulatory PFCs we have consistently seen improvements in the number of DART assessments completed,” says Terri Stuart-McEwan, Executive Director, Princess Margaret. She credits much of the project’s success due to staff engagement and points to an “exceptional level of teamwork and true commitment to improving the patient experience.”
There are now three iPads available for patients as they wait for blood collection, and both patients and staff have become increasingly familiar with DART assessments making the process seamless.
The high uptake of the DART program in the Blood Lab is partly due to the volume of patients seen daily – but it’s also largely due to the connections staff are able to make.
Even when seeing 100 plus patients in a week, blood lab staff are often able to develop bonds with patients as individuals, and begin to know them on a personal level.
It’s one of the few areas of LMP where staff work and engage with patients directly and it requires a certain understanding, patience and care to build the relationships sometimes seen between repeat patients and technicians.
“Having one’s blood collected can be a very personal experience,” says Maria. “As a patient, you want to feel comfortable and relaxed – so having trust in your phlebotomist is important.”
“We’ll sometimes see repeat patients request their phlebotomist by name, or even give up their place in line to wait for someone they’ve developed a relationship with. It’s a great thing to see, and really speaks to the connections built in the Blood Lab.”
A DART Star
One staff member who sees nearly every patient in the Princess Margaret Blood Lab is Myrna Galvey, Blood Lab receptionist. She has played an integral part in the DART programs success so far and was recognized this week for her contributions in the third annual DART Star Recognition Program.
Myrna was nominated by her peers in the Blood Lab and was selected as a DART Star winner based on her leadership, teamwork, and ability to use DART to provide exemplary patient experiences.
“Encouraging patients to complete DART just makes sense,” says Myrna. “Asking patients how they feel and directing them to the DART iPads can get them the help they need faster.”
“It’s not all just about about drawing blood in the blood lab. We have to manage patient questions and help get them answers.”