Improving Gram stain proficiency in hospital and satellite laboratories that do not have microbiology

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Abstract

Background:

Consolidation of laboratories has left many hospitals and satellite laboratories with minimal microbiologic testing. In many hospitals and satellite laboratories, Gram stains on primary specimens are still performed despite difficultly in maintaining proficiency.

Methods:

To maintain Gram stain proficiency at a community 450-bed hospital with an active emergency room we designed bimonthly challenges that require reporting Gram staining and morphology of different organisms. The challenges consist of five specimens prepared by the reference microbiology laboratory from cultures and primary specimens. Twenty to 23 medical laboratory scientists participate reading the challenges. Results from the challenges are discussed with each medical laboratory scientists. In addition, printed images from the challenges are presented at huddle to add microbiology knowledge.

Results:

On the first three challenges, Gram staining was read correctly in 71%-77% of the time while morphology 53%-66%. In the last six challenges correct answers for Gram stain were 77%-99% while morphology 73%-96%.

Conclusions:

We observed statistically significant improvement when reading Gram stains by providing frequent challenges to medical laboratory scientists. The clinical importance of Gram stain results is emphasized during huddle presentations increasing knowledge and motivation to perform the test for patients.

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