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Improvements for patients gives sense of achievement

 A smiling Ann Leonard


“There is a great sense of achievement when you introduce changes that offer real improvements for patients,” according to Dr Ann Leonard, Quality Innovation Manager at Tallaght University Hospital (TUH).

Ann is also the Chief Medical Scientist in the Hospital’s Laboratory Medicine Innovation Hub (LMIH). Outlining one of her favourite projects to date, Ann explains that they wanted to improve the turnaround time for the results of pathology blood tests in the Emergency Department:

“We succeeded in making the process much quicker and the achievement was recognised externally with an Irish Healthcare Award.”

TUH Academy of Phlebotomy

Ann was also one of the key drivers in the establishment of the TUH Academy of Phlebotomy (the procedure involving taking blood from a vein usually for laboratory testing purposes). The Academy offers a phlebotomy certificate course (level 6) which is currently the only course of its kind in the country. It was set up to help address the shortage of staff in Ireland with this important skill set. Ann and her team worked with the Trinity Centre for Practice and Healthcare Innovation to get the certificate course in phlebotomy fully accredited.

The course now takes place in TUH, at the Centre for Learning and Development, and has already produced graduates who work as phlebotomists in the hospital. Ann notes that “this was a very important initiative as 70% of all medical decisions are based on a lab result, which relies on a good quality blood sample taken by a well-trained phlebotomist.”

In addition, Ann and her team have been successful in the highly competitive Spark Community Innovation Fund where they were awarded €27,000 to set up centrifugation in the community: “Centrifugation is a process used to separate components of a blood sample such as red blood cells and white blood cells, as well as from other components, such as platelets. This now happens just after a blood sample is taken and before it is transported to the lab.”

Reflecting on the culture at TUH, Ann describes it as “very supportive of innovation and collaboration between the different departments. I feel very privileged to work and learn from such a wide variety of high calibre medical professionals who all really want to make a difference. There is also a great sense of achievement when you can introduce changes that offer real improvements for patients. I really believe that something magic happens when you get the right people in a room with a blank piece of paper.

“My biggest learning is the power of a team - when faced with something on your own it can be daunting. My advice to anyone who has an idea for change is don’t be afraid to start. Starting anything is the most difficult thing but once you get going most of the time you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice, a simple conversation with someone can change everything.”