Pitfalls of Prolactin Biochemistry Assay

Laboratories occasionally get questions from clinicians about prolactin results, mainly to either rule out high-dose hook effect or assess interference from macroprolactin. In most laboratories, sandwich immunoassay is used to measure prolactin concentration and it is widely known that older generations of prolactin assays suffer from hook effect and interference from macroprolactin. In the presence of extremely high concentration of prolactin, antibodies can be saturated, resulting in falsely low results, which is known as high-dose hook effect. Multiple cases have been reported in patients with giant prolactinomas, that their prolactin results were measured as normal or moderately elevated. In order to rule out high-dose hook effect, clinicians normally request laboratories to perform appropriate dilutions for prolactin in patients with large pituitary tumors. Newer generation of prolactin assays have better performance in this aspect, and most assays nowadays have no hook effect up to concentrations of 10,000 ng/mL, claimed by manufactures.

Another pitfall of prolactin assay is the interference from macroprolactin. Macroprolactin is a complex of prolactin bound to immunoglobulin, and thought to be biologically inactive. In the presence of elevated macroprolactin, patient is asymptomatic. However, macroprolactin can be picked up by prolactin immunoassays to some extent, and results in misdiagnosis as hyperprolactinemia. Reports showed that 15-20% of cases with hyperprolactinemia was due to elevated macroprolactin. Therefore, macroprolactinemia should be considered while evaluating hyperprolactinemia cases in the absence of symptoms or pituitary imaging evidence. Laboratories could easily perform dilution study to test if interference exists. To confirm the presence of macroprolactin, polyethylene glycol (PEG) 6000 can be used to precipitate macroprolactin followed by prolactin measurement in the supernatant. The presence of macroprolactin is suggested when the pull-down percentage is greater than 40-50%. This test is offered by many reference laboratories.

These two pitfalls of prolactin biochemistry assays should always be kept in mind by laboratorians, to provide better guidance to clinicians’ concern and workups on prolactin related cases.   

 

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-Xin Yi, PhD, DABCC, FACB, is a board-certified clinical chemist, currently serving as the Co-director of Clinical Chemistry at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, TX and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Microbiology Case Study: A 62 Year Old Man with a Lung Mass

A 62 year old male without a significant past medical or smoking history was referred to pulmonology for an abnormal chest CT.  Three months prior to presentation, the patient had developed a cough after doing some home remodelling that involved sanding drywall.  The cough became severe and blood-tinged, including some clots, so the patient sought medical attention.  The patient denied any other symptoms and reported feeling well overall.  Physical exam findings were all within normal limits.  A chest X-ray showed a round lesion in the left lower lobe.  Follow-up chest X-rays showed that the lesion had decreased in prominence but had not resolved.  Subsequently, a chest CT was performed that showed a 2.8cm mass-like focal area of consolidation in the left lower lobe without associated lymphadenopathy.  Because malignancy could not be excluded, the patient underwent bronchoscopy with biopsies obtained for cytopathologic evaluation as well as mycobacterial and fungal cultures.

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Image 1: Cytologic preparation (alcohol-fixed, Papanicolaou-stained) of lung, left lower lobe, 2.8cm mass, fine needle aspiration.

The cytologic preparation of fluid from a fine needle aspiration (Image 1) shows granulomatous inflammation with patchy necrosis.  Typically, a mixed inflammatory reaction is observed, with neutrophils, granulomas, epithelioid histiocytes, and foreign body giant cells.  Examination reveals several round-to-oval yeast cells, measuring 9-13μm in diameter.  Single broad-based (4-5 μm wide) buds and thick, double contoured, refractile cell walls are also characteristic of the yeast forms visualized here, leading to a rapid presumptive diagnosis.

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Image 2: Scotch Tape touch preparation of one white colony growing on potato flake agar (25°C) after 10 days of incubation.

Growth of the fungus on various culture media is more sensitive than direct examination and yields a definitive diagnosis.  On potato flake agar incubated at room temperature (25°C), one white colony that was tan on the reverse began growing at 8 days.  Typically, colonies appear in 1-4 weeks and range from white (initially) to brown (with age).  Microscopic examination of a Scotch Tape touch prepared at 10 days (Image 2) demonstrates the mold form of this dimorphic fungus has delicate, septate hyphae with right-angle conidiophores that bear single, terminal conidia (resembling lollipops).  A DNA probe is used to confirm the identification of Blastomyces dermatitidis.

Discussion

As described above, Blastomyces dermatitidis is a thermally dimorphic fungus.  In the environment, the mold form of B. dermatitidis is found in wet soil, particularly when enriched by animal droppings and decaying organic matter (1).  When a susceptible host (healthy or immunocompromised) disrupts wet earth that contains B. dermatitidis, infectious conidia are inhaled into the lungs.  Adult men are more likely to have blastomycosis, likely because they partake in outdoor activities (ex. hunting, fishing) that are associated with environmental exposure to airborne conidia.

Symptoms of blastomycosis are variable, ranging from asymptomatic or transient flu-like to severe pulmonary involvement.  Patients may present with symptoms of acute pneumonia (fevers, chills, cough, hemoptysis, and dyspnea) that can be indistinguishable from viral or bacterial causes.  Other patients, with chronic pneumonia, have systemic symptoms (weight loss, low-grade fevers, night sweats, productive cough, and chest pain) that overlap with pulmonary tuberculosis, histoplasmosis, or bronchogenic malignancy.  In addition to the primary pulmonary infection, approximately half of patients develop extrapulmonary symptoms from hematogenous dissemination to almost any organ; most commonly to skin, bones, male genitourinary, and the central nervous system.

Regardless of symptoms, a majority of patients with blastomycosis will have chest X-ray findings, alveolar infiltrates or a mass lesion involving any location that are non-specific and may mimic malignancy.  The mortality rate is 0% in healthy hosts and up to 30% in immunocompromised people, frequently due to disseminated disease.  There are no guidelines for susceptibility testing of dimorphic fungi.  The preferred treatment of mild to moderate pulmonary blastomycosis is itraconazole for 6-12 months.  Conversely, amphotericin B is used in moderately severe disease to treat chronic pulmonary symptoms, disseminated blastomycosis, CNS involvement, immunocompromised or pregnant patients.

Reference

  1. Saccente M, Woods GL. Clinical and laboratory update on blastomycosis. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2010;23(2):367-81.

 

-Adina Bodolan, MD is a 1st year anatomic and clinical pathology resident at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

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-Christi Wojewoda, MD, is the Director of Clinical Microbiology at the University of Vermont Medical Center and an Associate Professor at the University of Vermont.

Hematopathology Case Study: A 72 Year Old Female with History of Lung Adenocarcinoma

Case history 

A 72 year-old female with a history of stage IA lung adenocarcinoma diagnosed in 2009 s/p resection underwent a surveillance CT scan of the chest which revealed an enlarged right upper lobe paramediastinal lung nodule. A subsequent MRI of the abdomen and PET scan revealed mediastinal lymphadenopathy with numerous boney lesions. Due to the prior history of lung cancer, a right iliac bone biopsy was performed.

Diagnosis

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H&E, 10x
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H&E, 20x
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H&E, 50x
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CD45
myesar-cd-117
CD117
myesar-cd-34
CD34
myesar-cd-68
CD68
myesar-cd-56
CD56
myesar-mpo
MPO
myesar-cd-43
CD43

Sections of bone show an extensive intramedullary infiltration by large cells with moderate amounts of cytoplasm, irregular nuclear contours, moderately condensed chromatin and some cells with inconspicuous nucleoli.

By immunohistochemistry, the neoplastic cells are immunoreactive for CD45, MPO, CD68, CD56, and CD43. The cells are negative for cytokeratins, TTF-1, CD20, CD10, PAX5, BCL6, MUM1 and CD79a. CD3 and CD5 highlight rare scattered T-cells.

Overall, in the context of multiple osseous lesions, these findings are representative for a myeloid sarcoma.

Discussion 

Myeloid sarcoma is a tumor mass consisting of myeloid blasts with or without maturation occurring at any site other than the bone marrow. Infiltration of blasts at any site are not classified as a myeloid sarcoma unless there is effacement of tissue architecture. Frequent sites for involvement by a myeloid sarcoma include skin, lymph node, gastrointestinal tract, bone, soft tissue, and testis.

Detection of a myeloid sarcoma is considered as an equivalent diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia. It may precede or coincide with AML as well as be a presenting finding in those that relapse from AML.

Morphologically, the blasts may or may not show features of maturation and efface the architecture of the involved site. Immunophenotypically, CD68 is considered the most commonly expressed marker followed by MPO, CD117, lysozyme, CD34, TdT, CD56, CD30, glycophorin and CD4. Interestingly enough, CD123 may be expressed in those cases that also have inv(16). It must be emphasized that those cases that meet criteria for a mixed phenotypic acute leukemia (MPAL) cannot be classified as a myeloid sarcoma.

By cytogenetics, 55% of myeloid sarcomas have aberrant cytogenetic findings including monosomy 7, MLL rearrangements, inv(16), and other chromosomal changes. In the pediatric population, t(8;21) may be observed and is less frequent in adults. NPM1 is mutated in 16% of cases.

Lastly, the differential diagnosis should be kept broad in cases that appear lymphoid in nature yet do not mark appropriately. It is often expressed that the primary morphologic differential is a lymphoma, including lymphoblastic lymphoma, Burkitt lymphoma, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm, and other small round blue cell tumors of childhood.

Reference

  1. Swerdlow SH, Campo E, Harris NL, et al.  WHO Classification of Tumours of Haematopoietic and Lymphoid Tissues. Lyon, France: IARC Press; 2008

 

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-Phillip Michaels, MD is a board certified anatomic and clinical pathologist who is a current hematopathology fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. His research interests include molecular profiling of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma as well as pathology resident education, especially in hematopathology and molecular genetic pathology.

Patients and Patience

Holiday season is around the corner! And, as such, I’d like to take this opportunity to share a few thoughts I have on how our professional scope as laboratorians extends all the way from the bench to the dinner table.

How many times have you been asked by friends and family what it is exactly you “do” at work? And how many times have you done your best to explain, being met with references to unrealistic television shows or generalizations that go beyond your scope of practice? It’s happened to me a million times. It’s the nature of our laboratory culture. It’s a vital role in patient outcomes, but often behind the scenes. But just for a moment, let’s say you get beyond those surface explanations—what happens next? Probably, in most cases, not much.

One of the main tenets of the ASCP mission which we all work together is advocacy: for our communities, our institutions, our teams, and our patients. More often than not I would bet that family members venture into that turnpike, mostly as patients. When a grandparent, uncle, sister, or friend says they’ve got an upcoming procedure or test, how many of us would share our knowledge with him or her? I know I would. Not in a way that goes beyond our scopes as phlebotomists, medical laboratory scientists, or cytotechnologists, or medical students, or pathologists—but as someone who wants to empower their loved one to be the most informed and prepared patient they can be. In 2012, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) promoted their campaign “Questions to Ask Your Doctor.” In it, they cite that good health depends on good communication and that patients should not be afraid to ask their physician questions about their health outcomes. You remember, the commercials with the guy at the cell phone store that asked a hundred free train-of-thought questions but was speechless in front of his doctor…I loved those.

In that same holiday spirit that celebrates thankfulness, family, and relationships, let’s include laboratory professionals! If you have a loved one who it applies to, explain just what happens after those six different colored tubes were drawn, explain how that removed mole was set, sectioned, and reviewed, explain how staining different cells in a body fluid give a clinician important data about their health. Hundreds of thousands of laboratory professionals in the United States could offer not just invaluable information to their friends and family, but peace of mind. Demystifying the medical process might make those patience more confident in asking informed questions and, together with their provider, improve their health outcomes.

I find myself in an interesting position today. Having years of explaining what CBCs or CMPs actually measure and why someone might have to fast before a lipid panel, I’ve started a slow transition to learning how to explain what that means to an individual’s health. What a fantastic foundation lab medicine gave me to build on! (Really a recurring theme you’ll see in lots of my posts.) By moving from what different stains mean to a clinician, I am now on a path toward being able to use that information for the next step in professional scope: diagnosis and management.

Just like I’m on this academic and professional journey, lots of us are on a path through or toward something. But back to our ASCP message, advocacy for patients means recognizing their journey—especially when they’re our family and friends. The best outcomes for any patients rely on valuable information, communication, and rapport. And while you help your loved ones through the steps of their journey as a patient you might empower them to be a more involved member of their healthcare team. As a result, they might experience more personal and effective care. And a bonus just for us: maybe more people would appreciate some behind the scenes lab medicine. Who knows?

So, from me and mine to you and yours, have a great holiday season and a wonderful new year! I’ll return with stories, cases, and commentary on medical school clinicals in January!

Take care and thanks for reading!

 

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Constantine E. Kanakis MSc, MLS (ASCP)CM graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BS in Molecular Biology and Bioethics and then Rush University with an MS in Medical Laboratory Science. He is currently a medical student at the American University of the Caribbean and actively involved with local public health.

Microbiology Case Study: A 19 Year Old Male with Fever and Chills

Case History

A 19 year old African American male presented to the emergency department (ED) with complaints of fevers, chills, nausea, vomiting, a “head-splitting” headache and abdominal pain. He reported that his fevers and chills had increased in severity, reaching a max of 104°F, and had 7-8 episodes of non-bloody emesis on the day of presentation. Travel history was significant for a recent return from a two year visit to his home country of Ghana. He did state he was bitten by mosquitos there about a week before his symptoms began. In the ED, vital signs showed a fever of 102.6°F, increased respirations (36 per minute) and a normal pulse and blood pressure (98 beats per minute and 120/65, respectively). Initial CBC showed a hemoglobin of 13.2 g/dL and a hematocrit of 37.3%. Platelet count was decreased (31,000 TH/cm2). A malaria screen was ordered to look for the presence of blood parasites.

Laboratory Identification

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Image 1. The rapid detection test for malaria antigens showed a strong positive band for Plasmodium falciparum (T1) and a weak positive band for common malarial antigens (T2).   
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Image 2. Giemsa blood smear revealed multiple intracellular trophozoites (ring forms) (100x oil immersion).

The BinaxNOW rapid malaria screening test was positive for both P. falciparum and common malarial antigens, making a possible mixed infection unable to be ruled out (Image 1). The thin blood smear revealed numerous trophozoites with multiple ring forms in one red blood cell and appliqué forms, findings characteristic of P. falciparum (Image 2). No advanced forms, including schizonts and gametocytes, were identified. The high level of parasitemia (approximately 5.5%) also supported the diagnosis of P. falciparum.

Discussion

Malaria is a disease infecting humans through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito and affects many worldwide, particularly in the tropic and subtropic regions of Africa and Southeast Asia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 212 million cases of malaria occurred in 2015 with 429,000 deaths attributed to malaria. In the United States, the majority of cases are diagnosed in travelers and immigrants returning from endemic areas. Rapid diagnosis of malaria, especially in the most aggressive Plasmodium falciparum species, is of utmost importance in order to provide prompt treatment to the patient to minimize morbidity and mortality. Clinical findings can be non-specific, especially early in the disease course, and it is important to ask about travel and exposure history. In the case of P. falciparum, cyclic tertian fevers, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting and muscle aches are common.

Definitive diagnosis is achieved by examination of thick and thin blood smears in the clinical laboratory. These two Giemsa stained smears are prepared in order to recognize the Plasmodium organisms (thick smear) and identify the particular species causing infection (thin smear). This approach remains the gold standard for laboratory confirmation of malaria. In the case of P. falciparum, the most common microscopic findings include visualizing early intracellular trophozoites (two chromatin dots connected by a thin cytoplasm). Multiple rings in a single red cell and appliqué forms (trophozoites at the edge of the red cell) are common as well. The crescent shaped gametocyte is also a diagnostic form of P. falciparum, with schizonts being rare in peripheral blood smears.

Immunochromatographic testing is gaining popularity due to their ability to rapidly (10-15 minutes) detect malaria antigens. This makes them a useful alternative to microscopy where resources do not allow for adequate microscopic examination or trained staff is unavailable around the clock. Although these tests are useful in some clinical settings, cost, accuracy and overall performance need to be considered prior to implementation.

Following identification, another important aspect of the laboratory diagnosis is determining the level of parasitemia, as this aids in the classification of disease severity and how anti-malarial drugs should be administered and in what setting. This determined by the following equation using the thin smear: (number of infected RBCs/total number of RBCs) x 100. At least 500 RBCs should be counted, but in the case of lower levels of parasitemia upwards of 2,000 cells is recommended for the most accurate percentage. Other important points include that gametocytes should not be included in the count and red cells infected with more than one trophozoite should be counted as one infected cell.

In the case of our patient, his parasitemia level of approximately 5.5% classified him as a severe malaria infection and he was transferred to the intensive care unit for close monitoring and treatment with IV quinidine, as this drug is associated with hypoglycemia and QT prolongation. After 24 hours, his parasitemia level was 2.6% but due to significant prolongation of the QT interval on EKG from 407 ms to 560 ms, he was switched to oral atovaquone-proguanil (malarone) after consultation with experts at the CDC.  Parasitemia level was 0.4% after an additional 24 hours. The patient was discharged home after completion of therapy and was well at follow up outpatient visit.

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-Eric Tillotson, MD, is a second year Anatomic and Clinical Pathology resident at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

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-Lisa Stempak, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Pathology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, MS. She is certified by the American Board of Pathology in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology as well as Medical Microbiology. She is the director of the Microbiology and Serology Laboratories. Her interests include infectious disease histology, process and quality improvement and resident education.

Telemicroscopy: Applying Technology to Solve an Old Problem

The Gram Stain

Everyone knows that the Gram stain is an essential microbiological method which aids in the differentiation of bacteria. When a specimen is sent to the clinical microbiology laboratory for culture, the Gram stain result is frequently the first information provided to the clinician. It is used to first determine a) if infection is present and b) what type of infection (i.e., gram positive vs. gram negative? monomicrobial vs. polymicrobial?). Furthermore, if organisms are observed in a normally sterile fluid/tissue (i.e., blood, cerebral spinal, fluid, cardiac tissue, etc.) the Gram stain result can be a critical result. More importantly, the Gram stain result often drives patient care. 

The Issue

Although the Gram stain is an essential clinical tool, many laboratories struggle to maintain competent technologists, especially on off-shifts or in laboratories that lack microbiology expertise (generalists). The need for second review is common when performing Gram stains as they are often subject to variability due to inconsistent staining techniques, antibiotic pressure, as well as artifacts. Even under best case scenarios, Gram stain interpretation can be challenging and may require multiple reviewers. 

The Solution

Telemicroscopy offers an easy to use and relatively inexpensive solution to provide formal and informal second opinions to various sections of the laboratory (microbiology, hematology, pathology). With the proper tools, telemicroscopy allows Gram stain interpretation from anywhere there is internet access.  Every hospital laboratory has a microscope and a computer with internet, so the only item that may need to be purchased is a microscope camera (≥$5,000). There are also various microscope adapters available for phone cameras that provide equal results for less capital (≥$90). The microscope adapter encases the smart phone and then fits into the eyepiece of most microscopes.

Telemicroscopy utilizes technology to improve diagnostic accuracy, by providing expert consultation for technologists who are uncertain of their results. Telemicroscopy allows laboratories to “present” still or live images to a reference laboratory via a web-based software application such as Skype (or FaceTime if using an iPhone).

About Geisinger Medical Laboratories Telemicroscopy Program 

Geisinger Medical Laboratories is an eight hospital integrated health service organization, serving >2.6 million residents throughout 46 counties in Pennsylvania. Geisinger Medical Center serves as the reference laboratory for 4 minimal laboratories (Gram stain reading, no culture work-up) and 2 partial laboratories (Gram stain reading, limited culture work-up). The Telemicroscopy program consists of presenting still or live images [Olympus BX40, BX41 microscope, Nikon cellSense software (version 1.7.1)] to the reference laboratory via Skype [Logitech 920 camera (version 2013)]. The telemicroscopy result, which is a consensus finding, is manually recorded and followed up with culture review to determine patient impact. 

The Outcome

We evaluated the effect of implementing a telemicroscopy program on patient care.  A retrospective look back at our telemicroscopy data showed that nearly 40% of consults resulted in a change to the original interpretation. The consensus Gram stain result correlated with culture 85% of the time. Overall, 49% of the cases assessed by telemicroscopy were impacted by the consult. Of which, patient care was positively and negatively impacted in 72% and 28% of cases, respectively.

The Conclusion

Gram stain consultations via telemicroscopy from remote hospital sites can improve patient care. Telemicroscopy offers a simple, inexpensive, and innovative approach to providing expert consultation services to off-shift or inexperienced staff. This is also a great way to promote interdepartmental consultation and collaboration (i.e., between microbiology and hematology or pathology).

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Image 1. Telemicroscopy via traditional microscope camera. Microscope with camera attached and computer screen showing Gram stain.
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Image 2. Telemicroscopy via s mart phone. Close up of microscope adapter attached to microscope. Image of Gram stain displayed on phone screen.

References:

  1. Microbiology Strong: Enhancing Microbiology Services and Technical Support in an Integrated Laboratory System. ASCP.  Las Vegas, Nevada. September 2016. Oral presentation.
  2. Martinez, R.M., Shoemaker, B.C., Riley, J.A., and Wolk, D.M. 2016. The TeleGram of the 21st Century: the Digital Gram Stain. American Society for Microbiology (ASM) General Meeting. Boston, MA. Poster presentation.

 

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-Raquel Martinez, PhD, D(ABMM), was named an ASCP 40 Under Forty TOP FIVE honoree for 2017. She is one of two System Directors of Clinical and Molecular Microbiology at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania. Her research interests focus on infectious disease diagnostics, specifically rapid molecular technologies for the detection of bloodstream and respiratory virus infections, and antimicrobial resistance, with the overall goal to improve patient outcomes.

 

 

Reacting to Change

People react to change very differently, but almost everyone has a strong opinion about it. Personally, I love change and I often go out of my way to create it whenever possible. I rearrange my furniture at home every few months.  I lived and worked abroad for years; I moved so often that for three years the longest I stayed in one place was five weeks. Now, the change I look to create is less locational and more organizational and cross-cultural. Understanding how others react to change is an essential component of the process.

The Reacting to Change course focuses understanding how you and others react to change situations and how to effectively plan and create change. Acknowledging both the emotional and practical aspects of change creates the space for coworkers and employees to get on board with the new direction and plans. Allowing people to have input wherever possible and creating session in which people can ask questions, provides valuable input and a sense of ownership, which is essential to make the change last. Furthermore, giving people time to process and move into action at their own pace is essential to create buy-in. For those people familiar with the DiSC Styles (hyperlink to that blog), typically those who have a C or S style tend to prefer longer timelines, while those with D and i styles can handle a faster change process more comfortably.

This course determines your thinking style: constructive, passive/defensive, or aggressive/defensive. Each style is further divided into four styles, so there are twelve total. The ultimate goal is to reduce both defensive styles and to increase your constructive thinking, which leads to constructive behaviors. This assessment indicates which behavior you exemplify when in stressful situations, for instance when a change is implemented at work. If you already have a tendency for passive/defensive thinking, it indicates that you are more likely to react that way when faced with a policy change, office relocation, or anything else that causes you stress. This assessment helps you provide an action plan of where to move your thinking and behavior towards.

Change is part of our daily interaction with the world. Gaining that self-awareness and understanding of others is critical when leading people through any type of change process, whether a policy change or a merger. Woodrow Wilson said “if you want to make enemies, try to change something”. What can you do as a leader to create even higher levels of collaboration, productivity, and satisfaction through change?

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


 

During my tenure in the Blood Bank, institutions have moved from immediate spin crossmatches (manual crossmatch) to electronic crossmatches (computer crossmatch). Computer Crossmatching allows the Blood Bank computer system to match donor and recipient ABO Rh type for compatibility. In order to do so, certain standards must be met. A minimum of two ABO typings must be in the system, the patient must have a negative antibody screen, and no history of ABO Discrepancies or clinically significant antibodies can exist. If any of the mentioned circumstances are present, an immediate spin or Coombs crossmatch must be performed.

Implementing this change improved turnaround times which reduced rates of delayed transfusions and elevated patient satisfaction rates. Perhaps more importantly, another patient safety initiative was created, since two ABO types need to be performed on two different specimens. This means patient identifiers are checked and confirmed on two different specimens before transfusion. While these changes aligned with the Joint Commission’s Safety goals, internally this change impacted the Nursing and Blood Bank Departments in ways that made the transition less than smooth.

The ASCP Leadership Institute’s “Reacting to Change” module uses methodology from different industries to create powerful change. Dr. John Kotter has an 8-Step Process for Change, which resonated with my experience.  Engaging & Enabling the Organization include: communicate the vison, empower action, and create quick wins.

Since our rollout of this change lacked these steps, it wasn’t as successful as it could have been. The lack of communication and proper departmental educational in-services lead some individuals within the Blood Bank to have several concerns. Older technologists worried technology would eventually take their job, and novices worried they would unintentionally harm a patient since they didn’t physically complete a crossmatch. As for the Nursing Department, most nurses did not know about this new requirement. The importance of the second-specimen requirement was seen as a nuisance rather than an improvement to patient care. Proper educational in-services were not instilled, which resulted in more questions for the Blood Bank to answer. In addition,   two specimens were drawn at the same time, which negated the utility of the second specimen. Since education wasn’t finalized prior to implementation, the nurses and blood bank staff were frustrated.

Dr. Kotter’s Engaging & Enabling is a means of collaboration. In this scenario, collaboration between departments and having an education liaison for each department could have assisted in the execution. The use of knowledgeable, talented personnel can allow both departments to cohesively provide seamless operations. Seeking out our talented staff and encouraging them to be great enriches their sense of purpose and allows us to acknowledge them for their talents.

In order for change to be effective, we have to minimize negative reactions to change. This involves communication, education and providing data-driven results. Change is inevitable, and proper execution can help make that change successful.

 

 

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-Tiffany Channer honed her skill and knowledge of Blood Banking at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, NY, where she completed her 9 year tenure at Memorial Sloan as Blood Bank Educational Lead Medical Technologist III/ Safety Officer. She’s currently working as a Laboratory Lead Technologist III at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg Florida. At ASCP, Tiffany is the Mid-Atlantic Regional Representative for the Council of Laboratory Professionals Council. Tiffany was a Top Five 40 under Forty Honoree in 2015 for her dedication and advocacy to education and laboratory medicine.