Angela has patients

25 August 2022

Located in the outpatient area of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the SA Pathology collection centre is a busy hive of patients, nurses, and phlebotomists, with our staff attending to hundreds of people a day. We speak to Angela Walsh, a Registered Nurse (RN) who leads an incredible team, and she tells us about the importance of what we do and the type of work that lands on her “desk”.

“The collection centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital is different from anywhere else because the patient numbers are so large. Because we get so many kinds of tests and so much research work that is not normal anywhere else, we really have developed such a depth of knowledge. We also do lots of teaching here because of that.”

With the majority of patients traveling from outpatient clinics, the number of people entering the collection centre can change very quickly. A patient can be in the hospital for up to 3 to 4 hours, seeing a mix of specialists including surgeons, anesthetists, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, and of course needing pathology tests.

There are also a lot of patients who come from pre-operation clinics, which run every day. The larger operations taking place will require samples to be taken beforehand, such as total hip and knee replacements, renal transplants, and cardiac surgery.

“We tend to see the sickest of patients, and a lot of those have PICC (Peripherally inserted central catheter) lines. People think that patients are only in the chair for 5 or 10 minutes, but that is not the case. We have regular patients that we can spend longer periods of time with, so we become quite close to them.”

A PICC line is a narrow tube that is inserted into the arm so that medication can be given directly into the bloodstream without having to repeatedly insert needles. They can also be used for drawing blood, which can take up to 15-20 minutes to do – considerably longer than a regular blood draw.

Angela explains that without Pathology, and other fields such as Radiology, it is harder to make a diagnosis. Due to the sheer volume of tests now available, doctors use pathology as a diagnostic tool more than they used to. As technology and knowledge about conditions become more advanced it allows for specific treatment options. “With Pathology being used for diagnostic purposes, it's so important that what we do is very precise - following the procedure exactly, and still caring for the patient.”

The team at the RAH are passionate advocates for their patients, and this can be seen in the form of contacting their doctor to discuss their needs or simply holding their hand when they need it – putting their needs first is always paramount.

“We have some unbelievably skilled people here – We are here to provide the best possible specimen and advocate for the patient.”

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