The Lonely Life of a Clinical Pathologist: Rounding in the Lab

As I mentioned last month, a big part of my job has been to do daily rounds through the lab to seek out areas that need troubleshooting. One point I noticed was technologists don’t always see the impact of their work on patient care. I wanted to make sure they knew the importance of their work so I decided to incorporate education as a tool to highlight how their work directly affects patient care. Each section of the laboratory has their own ways of communicating so I have done something a little different in both labs.

In the microbiology section, I started a weekly “formal” microbiology rounds with the infectious disease doctors, the pharmacists, and the technologists. While I saw this rounding at both of my training institutions, there were held in different styles. In one, the infectious disease team rounded through the lab and asked the techs questions about their patients; in the other, the team discussed interesting case around a microscope.  I decided to take a combined approach:  we meet in the lab at the microscope so the techs can work if needed yet still be a part of the discussion. The techs save interesting cases that have come up over the last week or so and we show the rest of the team. It usually involves discussing organism identification methods as well as the disease process associated with the organism. This has given the techs the chance to ask the physicians and pharmacists questions about the patient isolates they have worked on directly. In addition, it has given them the opportunity to ask why physicians order certain tests. The pharmacists have added so much to these rounds and it has been nice to see a collaborative effort between multiple areas of the patient care team come together and talk about why things are done and the outcome of the patient based on laboratory results.  It demonstrates to everyone that each member of team is passionate about patient care.  In order to bring some of this knowledge to the second shift staff that performs microbiology processing, I save one or two interesting cases from rounds and present a quick rundown of what the bug is and how it is identified in the lab so they can see how their work is completed the next day.

For chemistry and immunology, the laboratory team has a monthly meeting. At each of these meetings, I run through a formal case presentation based off interesting cases the techs have come across or have had questions on specific disease processes related to the laboratory work they are performing. The topics have ranged from beer potamania (that got a lot of discussion!) to what polymerase chain reaction is. It has been another approach to show the technologists how their work directly impacts patient care and they have really enjoyed it.  The goal is to bring clinicians into these discussions, as well, but that has not been as easy for these meetings. We have been able to bring a pharmacist in to discuss vancomycin trough levels and why draw times are so specific. It really helps having other departments reach out to the laboratory staff to let them see why policies are structured the way they are.

I really enjoy being in the lab and interacting with the technologists, however, one of the principal lessons I have learned this year is how important it is to get out of the laboratory as a clinical pathologist. The next couple of months I will talk about how I have gotten involved in other areas of the hospital. But for now, let’s hear from you, do you have any formal rounding or education that you offer your techs?  What ideas have had the best responses from the technologists? I am looking forward to hearing more ideas on how to integrate education and interdisciplinary teamwork for our laboratory staff.



-Lori Racsa, DO, is the director of microbiology, immunology, and chemistry at Unity Point Health Methodist, and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University Of Illinois College Of Medicine at Peoria. While microbiology is her passion, she has a keen interest in getting the laboratory involved as a key component of an interdisciplinary patient care team.

One thought on “The Lonely Life of a Clinical Pathologist: Rounding in the Lab”

  1. It’s wonderful to see the entire team working together to understand the patient and how lab results can effect treatment! Your work as a pathologist in helping the lab team collaborate with pharmacists and other providers both benefits the patient and enhances job satisfaction immensely for the “behind the scenes” lab techs.

    I worked at a large hospital for many years in Chemistry, Hematology, and Flow Cytometry, and having pathologists and oncologists explain the clinical picture for patients was very valuable to us. Now I work in a small women’s health clinic as lab manager, so we see patients after their appointments and make direct connections to clinicians helping them choose appropriate lab tests in some unusual situations.

    Since my daughter recently graduated from pharmacy school and is part of a interdisciplinary patient care team, she also realizes how valuable lab results can be in her practice, as well as the pitfalls and concerns regarding misleading lab results (hemolyzed specimens affecting K+, etc.). I hope that patient centered care will continue to grow in this way. Your rounding and communication involving lab staff helps to educate and enhance understanding for everyone. Kudos to you!

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