Monique Martin is a highly trained and experienced phlebotomist, who has plied her profession at Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center in Oregon for 13 years. What’s not on her formal job description: department ambassador and provider of emotional support.
“I just try to do the best I can and make it a good experience,” Martin said. “Nobody likes blood draws. Nobody likes to have a piece of metal stuck in their arm.”
It’s precisely those occasions, when a needle-averse member is having a difficult time, that the phlebotomist takes on the role of caretaker, comforter, even psychologist. One such instance was earlier this year when a young patient, anxious about her upcoming blood draw, needed extra time and reassurance. Martin and her laboratory coworker that day, Justin Earles, spoke to her numerous times, didn’t rush her, and helped her through the experience.
“We talked to her for maybe 15 minutes to try to get her to feel comfortable, but she wasn’t having any of it,” Martin said of young patient. “She came back and talked to us again, and I told her I would hold her hand. It (the blood draw) was done in a matter of minutes.” Martin's exemplary work was recognized by the young patient’s father, who said she was “very kind and patient and provided information that was age-appropriate.”
It is people like Martin, who is among the more than 300,000 laboratory employees across the nation, who are being honored this week (April 22-28) during National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week.
The American Society for Clinical Pathology, which sponsors the annual recognition, reports laboratory professionals — scientists, pathologists, technicians, phlebotomists and other professionals — perform and interpret more than 10 billion laboratory tests in the United States every year.
Kaiser Permanente employs more than 7,000 laboratory professionals in more than 300 laboratories, and manages more than 150 million laboratory tests annually (including tests Kaiser Permanente performs within its walls and tests it sends out to external laboratories.) Tests include general laboratory (such as blood and urine), anatomic (cancer screening and tissue tests), and genetic services. The laboratory professionals are a vital link in the high-quality care provided to more than 12 million members every day.
“I am so proud to work with so many highly trained laboratory professionals,” said Lisa Arellanes, vice president, Clinical Ancillary Services & Systems, National Quality. “Without the expertise of the thousands of laboratory professionals, we wouldn’t have the essential information needed to provide the best treatment and care possible.”
The skill of laboratory professionals, along with streamlined turnaround times for laboratory results and the ability for members to view their results on kp.org, play a key role in members’ overall experiences with Kaiser Permanente. They undoubtedly contribute to the organization’s top performance on major accolades, such as the NCQA’s Health Insurance Plan Ratings and the Satmetrix customer loyalty survey.
More than any other laboratory professional, the phlebotomist has the added responsibility of interacting with the most members.
“We have PhDs and some the brightest professionals in the country, but it’s the phlebotomist that is the face of the lab,” said Judith Hanley, operations director, Laboratory Services, Kaiser Permanente Northwest Region. “We have phlebotomists that take the time and do it in a personal and positive way. They’re one of our greatest resources.”
For more information about Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, visit the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science website.