Lab Ambassador Program: Bridging the Gap Between Patients and the Laboratory

By Elizabeth Walker | July 8 2016

For the past decade, the Lab Ambassador Program has been linking Pathology laboratories with University Hospital nursing units. “The program streamlines communication," explains Clinical Pathology Operations Manager Kristina Martin. Better communication ultimately improves patient safety by allowing nurses and laboratory staff to coordinate efforts to enhance and preserve specimen integrity.

As part of the program, medical technologists from the laboratories serve as lab ambassadors, liaisons to the nursing staff in the clinical care units. “It’s amazing because they can see who we are," says lab ambassador Amy Drouillard, a technician in the Microbiology Laboratory. "We’re always behind a closed door," but thanks to the program, nurses have a point person to contact when problems arise. Saira Ramirez, who also works in the Microbiology Laboratory, explains: “If a nurse needed help with a certain issue, then they would contact the liaison from that particular lab to try to find a solution.” This allows questions to be answered quickly and efficiently.

Kristina Martin hopes more people will volunteer to serve as ambassadors in the coming months. “Ideally we would have someone from every lab. That’s the goal.”

One of the first tools that the Lab Ambassadors Program distributed was the Order of Draw card, a quick, visual reference for the order in which blood should be drawn. Ambassadors also arrange educational opportunities with the nursing staff, helping them understand the minimum volumes needed for various tests, the difference between urgent and routine testing, and how to properly label and transport specimens.

As part of Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, held each year in April, ambassadors organize lab tours, which are recorded for those unable to attend in person. Nursing staff, and all other interested parties, are invited to “see the different labs, ask questions, just get a better feel for the institution that they work in and the people that are down here,” says Ramirez. Feedback from those who have attended tours has been very positive, with suggestions that every nurse should be required to tour the laboratories.

In addition to improving communication between the nursing units on the patient floors and the laboratories, the Lab Ambassador program increases morale. Says Ramirez, “It can be empowering and make staff feel like they are part of something bigger. It gives them ownership.”

Drouillard appreciates that working as a lab ambassador has given her a voice and allowed her to better connect with her colleagues. “When you’re more involved, you’re more engaged. Your world opens up to this amazing hospital!”