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Inpatient phlebotomy hits record low contamination rate

13 May 2018

Blood culture contamination rate reduced to 0.53 percent

By: Mary Ransome, director of Salem Hospital Imaging and Lab Administration

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Phlebotomy team 2018

FRONT ROW (Left to right): Lisa Gray, Kelly Coker, Nicole Heidrick, Sarah Peters, Angie Lyons, Holly Funsch, Jamie Rouse
MIDDLE ROW: Ellan Olson, Josh Francis, Wendy Parker, Michelle Gillespie, Mary Ransome
BACK ROW: Jim Learmonth, Yevgeniy Chuprov, Irina Presnaya, Darcy Hearn, Meghan Clausen, Stonko Bencich, Shawn Wiegert

Denise Brimhall, Shelley Cioffi, Jeff Eshleman, Pari Fathi, Kristina Gumabon, Shawna Henry, Veronica Hinojosa, Gina Janas, Brittany Kaufman, Sue Koreiva, Charis McGarrell, Jacqueline Pageau, Tarra Schueller, Kat Scofield, Melinda Tumolo

During Feb. 2018, the Salem Hospital inpatient phlebotomy team had a record low blood culture contamination rate of 0.53 percent. Why is this important?

The Journal of Hospital Infection published a study on the detrimental effects of contaminated blood cultures. Researchers found patients with a false positive blood culture had significantly longer lengths of stay (by five days) and higher hospital costs (almost $5,000 per contamination) than those with a true negative blood culture

This amazing group of inpatient phlebotomists drew a total of 683 blood cultures in February — and only eight were contaminated. When I joined the lab in 2009, the housewide contamination rate was just under six percent. We have been focusing on it ever since, and IP phlebotomy has never been this low.

The national average for blood culture contamination rates hovers around three percent, which would be 21 contaminations based on our current volumes. If Salem Health accepted the national average, that would run us $105,000 in additional costs, plus over 100 more days of patients being hospitalized.

This is an extraordinary accomplishment. The focus and dedication to continuous improvement in how they care for their patients is impressive, and they deserve our appreciation and congratulations. The next time you see a phlebotomist in the hall or on the floor please take a few minutes to acknowledge them for their excellence!