Phlebotomy Takes Flight

By Lynn McCain | June 21

Across Michigan Medicine, team members spend their days committed to living the organization’s mission of advancing health to serve Michigan and the world. This is true whether in the lab, classroom, clinic or office – and no matter what role you play. 

A prime example of this dedication is the work put in by the Department of Pathology over the past year.The team has worked diligently to expand its phlebotomy resources and improve efficiency to create a more effective system for all patients and staff. 

Onboarding makes an impact 

The phlebotomy team includes phlebotomists, phlebotomy specialists, supervisors, administrators, administrative assistants, training specialists and a quality assurance coordinator. 

Every day, they collect labs from patients based on priority. Inpatient teams in UH and C&W focus on collecting blood specimens for morning labs, medication levels and STAT/Timed specimens. Outpatient teams, meanwhile, collect blood, urine and stool specimens from the patient population and access PORTs in the clinic. 

All of these duties play a major role in assessing patients and formulating care plans.  

Mary Tocco, manager of phlebotomy, highlighted the importance of recruitment and retention when it comes to enhancing the services the team provides.  

She credits an extensive training program that has paid major dividends in recent months. The training program includes a bi-weekly meeting with new staff members for up to six weeks. This helps ensure a positive experience for new staff so that their needs can be met and evaluates their onboarding experience.  Phlebotomy has three onsite training specialists, who are responsible for Adult Hospitals inpatient, Children’s & Women’s outpatient, and outpatient areas on the main medical campus. 

“Ensuring all our staff are onboarded and trained to our high standards has led to better patient care and a better experience for the colleagues we work with every day,” Tocco said.

Reducing injuries, enhancing safety 

In addition to the training program, the department has worked tirelessly to maintain a workplace that is efficient, employee-friendly and encourages strong communication between staff internally and between patients and their caregivers.  One such tweak was a physical change that has made a huge impact. 

The phlebotomy carts – which are used to transport materials -- were often heavy and cumbersome to move around. New phlebotomy carts have replaced the older ones, which have allowed phlebotomists to be more mobile in their daily duties.  "In less than a year, we’ve noticed a meaningful reduction in injuries, allowing our phlebotomists to move around safely from patient to patient,” Tocco said. 

In May 2023, another workplace innovation -- handheld devices -- were introduced for staff. The devices are Android phones and allow phlebotomists to move around their spaces easier, as well as aid in proper patient identification and collection of specimens.  

With the new devices, a patient’s arm band can be scanned and its corresponding label printed. In another project that began last month, the new handhelds are also helping to phase out the use of outdated pagers and enhancing communication between phlebotomy team members and nurses on the floor.  

Flying high 

Another major change is helping deploy phlebotomists where they are needed, when they are needed to improve patient care across U-M Health. 

“To do this, the Division of Quality and Health Improvement (DQHI) helped build the Phlebotomy Flight Board System,” said Brian Tapp, quality assurance coordinator for onsite phlebotomy. “The new system allows the team to see the status of current or future test orders in order to reduce excess orders and be more efficient.” 

For instance, if a physician orders a blood draw from a patient, but blood had been taken only a few hours before, the clinical labs can now simply use the same specimen for each test. This improves efficiency in reporting and reduces pokes for patients. 

“This has been extremely beneficial when it comes to turnaround time and burnout among our team members,” Tapp said.  Tapp and Tocco are aligned in stating that DQHI has been instrumental in the design, creation, project management, and implementation of many of these ongoing projects in phlebotomy. 

“We’ve identified analytics and metrics that are helping us improve our efforts,” Tocco said. “And we’ve introduced an electronic scheduling system allowing us to better fill open shifts and move staff around.”  

“We want the team to know their hard work and dedication throughout the pandemic and other adversity has not gone unnoticed,” Tapp said. “Their commitment to improving patient care has certainly paid off.”

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This story was originally posted on Michigan Medicine's Our Employees, Top Story