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The pathologist and the patient – sharing the journey

16th September 2020

Dr Gareth McKeeman (Clinical Scientist, Department of Clinical Biochemistry) with Mrs Liz Doran at the Clinical Biochemistry Laboratory, Belfast City Hospital.

Thursday 17 September 2020 is World Patient Safety Day and a good time to reflect on the impact that staff across Belfast Trust have on the safety of patients. For those staff whose work is based in areas with no real patient contact, it can be difficult to realise their influence on the patient pathway and ultimately the overall safety of each patient.

As part of the Royal College of Pathologists Patient Safety Awareness Week (in March 2020), colleagues from Belfast Trust laboratories were involved in a national campaign to improve the links between the laboratory and the patient. One aspect of this work involved highlighting the role of the laboratory in the patient journey and how pathologists and laboratory medicine professionals play a key role in patient safety. We also wanted to improve transparency of what happens across laboratory services and increase the visibility of the laboratory to patients. A second aspect was for lab professionals to gain access to direct patient feedback and hear exactly how the results produced by the laboratory can have a direct impact on the patient.

Liz Doran, a patient from within the Trust, was invited to visit the laboratory and see what happens to blood samples after they are collected from the clinic, including the steps involved in producing and reporting the test results. In addition, a representative of the laboratory team was invited by Liz to accompany her to one of her clinic appointments. This provided a greater understanding and appreciation of the challenges, fears and anxieties that exist among patients when waiting on blood test results.

Based on the discussion and feedback from these visits, Dr Gareth McKeeman (Consultant Clinical Scientist, Clinical Biochemistry), Dr Melanie Percy (Principle Clinical Scientist, Haematology) and Dr Shirley Heggarty (Consultant Clinical Scientist, Medical Genetics) developed a podcast for the Royal College of Pathologists. This was a conversation between Liz, who currently attends the Belfast City Hospital Cancer Centre for treatment, and one of the laboratory scientists. This podcast (recorded in February 2020), explores the sample journey from both the lab and patient angle and demonstrates how important it is to listen to and learn from each other.

Link to Soundcloud:

This work has led to the development of a small group of laboratory professionals who are keen to continue engaging better with patients. They want to explore how better information around laboratory testing for particular disease pathways could be developed and provided to patients to reduce fears around the blood sample testing processes. If you want to find out more about this or would be keen to work with the lab team to develop more targeted information for your patients, please get in touch with Shirley, Melanie or Gareth at the email contacts below.

Shirley Heggarty:

Melanie Percy:

Gareth McKeeman: