Non-medical staff at National University Hospital (NUH) will be trained to draw blood in a bid to reduce waiting times and ease nurses' heavy workload.
The move could halve the average half-hour wait for some patients who need a blood test.
"This is especially important... as some patients have to fast for eight to 10 hours for certain blood tests," said Ms Clara Sin, assistant chief operating officer of ambulatory services at NUH.
Four patient service associates (PSAs) - who traditionally handle registration, billing and appointments - have been trained to draw blood. In the next three years, NUH plans to train a fifth of its 470 PSAs in outpatient settings to do the task.
NUH announced these plans yesterday at its inaugural PSA Day, which was attended by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.
Its PSAs will have three days of training to learn how to identify different kinds of veins and draw blood as painlessly as possible, followed by a test. Then, supervised by medical staff, they need to draw blood successfully on their first try for 50 patients before they can attempt the task independently.
PSA Elaine Chua, 23, who has taken blood from about 100 patients, said: "Being directly involved in patient care gives me more job satisfaction."
With PSAs helping out, nurses have more time to focus on patient education, such as explaining the side effects of vaccines or performing complicated tests, noted senior staff nurse Menaga Magalingam.
The role expansion comes amid a healthcare manpower crunch, which saw the Health Ministry increasing the salaries of nurses last year. Job roles have also been expanded to ensure staff can progress in their careers.
Other hospitals have similar plans. Tan Tock Seng Hospital plans to train over 50 PSAs to draw blood in the next two years, while others will look at urine-flow tests and supervise patient medication. PSAs at Changi General Hospital work with nurses to arrange post-discharge care
This article was first published on April 23, 2015.
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