07 Feb Specimen Collection- Getting it Right!
Intra-operative specimen collection can be stressful to those outside of the sterile field, why because more than one biopsy can be taken at a time, such as prostate biopsies where there may be more than 12 biopsies taken on one patient and if you have not pre planned you could be doing a lot of catching up. The circulator maybe busy with adjusting lights, documenting patient details & or collecting specimen containers. A surgeon relies upon the surgical team getting the name of the specimen, spelling and location right and this can be difficult when done third hand. Clear pronunciation in an audible tone are ideal, however surgical masks do not aid dialect & clear communication. Getting the details correct on the specimen container is vital, so it is important for information and communication to be passed on accurately. Layfield & Anderson, 2010, reviewed specimen collections in an 18 month period, of which there were 75 labelling errors, 55 involved the patients name and 18 involved the wrong site. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/727907
How many times have you asked the surgeon, what is the name of the specimen, how do you spell that, the circulator may have missed the spelling or misspelt the word or documented the wrong side on the specimen container. For this reason we check the patients name is correct, we check the specimen is marked and labelled correctly, we check the pathology form matches the name and specimen. According to the Association of Surgical Technology, the Standard for Handling of Surgical Specimens have identified 4 key procedures where specimens have been mislabelled, these include breast surgery, skin biopsies, colon surgery & prostate biopsies. http://www.ast.org/uploadedFiles/Main_Site/Content/About_Us/Standard_Handling_Care_Surgical_Specimens.pdf
As health care professionals we need to be more vigilant about patient and specimen documentation. Always clarify details with the surgeon. Always follow Best Practices for specimen collection.