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When to Label Tubes

Our December, 2017 Quick Question asked, “When is the correct time to label blood specimen tubes?” The question generated 124 votes, an exceptional total that illustrates the level of concern for this issue. The answers were:

  1. Prior to meeting the patient: 6 (5%)
  2. In the presence of the patient, before collecting the blood: 36 (29%)
  3. In the presence of the patient, after collecting the blood: 82 (66%)
  4. Just after dismissing the patient (0)

The results of this survey and comments will appear in an Annals of Blood editorial this spring.

Worldwide, all regulatory documents require that specimen tube be labeled in the patient’s presence, and most require the patient to confirm the label before being dismissed. Those who selected answer 1 should examine their protocols and ensure they fall in line with the accrediting agencies’ requirements. Although a few European providers require the tubes be labeled prior to collection, most, and all North American regulators require the label be affixed or written after collection while in the presence of the patient. Labeling prior to collection adds an unnecessary potential error in that labeled, unused tubes could find their way to a subsequent collection, resulting in a mislabeled specimen. George will notify our participants when the AOB article appears, and meanwhile, thank you for your participation.

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