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  • Specimen collection and management

    It is important to provide staff with guidelines on the correct management of specimens obtained during procedures for pathology examination, including collection, handling, labelling and documentation.

    Improving your practice

    There are standard precautions or protocols that staff should follow when handling specimens.

    Staff should be educated in the different types of specimens and methods of handling, as relevant. For example:

    • A specimen for assessment of potential infection may need to be placed in a culture medium, or possibly in a sterile container for immediate processing.
    • A fixed specimen is smeared on a slide and sprayed with a fixative (e.g. Pap smear).
    • A routine histopathology specimen will usually need to be placed in a container with a preservative (e.g. formalin) and sent to pathology within a certain period of time.

    Staff should receive hazardous substance training to ensure formalin is handled safely and a spill kit should be available nearby.

    There should be adequate supplies of appropriate specimen jars or slides for the intended list.

    Correct labelling is critical on the specimen container, pathology request form, pathology record book and patient care form, as the results may determine further treatment for that patient. Labelling should include the patient's name, UR number, gender, address, patient's doctor, name of practice, date, time of specimen collection and anatomical labelling of specimen (e.g. left or right).

    Specimen labelling should be checked by both the nurse and doctor involved in the procedure.

    All specimens and pathology request forms should be placed in leak-proof containers and sealed in a biohazard specimen bag for transport. Potentially infectious specimens should be double bagged.

    Transport of specimens should be organised promptly according to the pathology company requirements.

    The treating medical practitioner should check all results prior to filing and follow-up with the patient as appropriate (see Tracking Tests).