Laboratory Results: To Call or Not to Call

Suzan Miller-Hoover DNP, RN, CCNS, CCRN-K

Lab Values

Can you decipher the myriad values that you see when the morning lab results come back? Is this value high or low? Is it a critical value? Which ones do you need to be sure get addressed first? Is your patient at risk if you wait for the physician?

Many healthcare workers can recall critical values and the expected treatment for some, but not all values, but what about the rest? Where do you go for answers, especially in the middle of the night? Each facility should have a laboratory value normal reference manual and the lab results are often presented with the lab value normal range indicated.

Knowing the lab values and knowing where to find the normal values, is just a part of interpreting the information. You need to consider:
  •   Fluid balance
  •   Underlying disease processes
  •   Phlebotomy techniques
  •   Previous lab results and completed interventions
  •   Previous patient history
  •   Disease treatment and management
     (Willis, 2015)

Interpreting laboratory values, even for the most common tests, is not a simple task. How do you know when to call the provider? Did he/she give you direction? If so, that makes your decision process easier. However, do you understand why you are calling? Can you anticipate the orders?

Knowing when to call to get orders for treatment is a crucial skill for all healthcare workers. Learning as much as you can about how fluid balance effects electrolytes, blood components, and other metabolic components can put you in a good place when interpreting the morning lab values.

If you would like to know more about lab interpretation, fluid balance, and treatment options, go to RN.com and review: Lab Values: Interpreting Chemistry and Hematology for Adult Patients. This course provides many tidbits of information to help you understand the causes, presentation, and treatment of imbalanced fluids, hematology, and electrolytes. While you cannot memorize all the different lab values, you can increase your knowledge base by learning some of the idiosyncrasies of each metabolic component found in the body. Then you will be able to confidentially answer the question: To Call or Not to Call.

Willis, L.M. (ed). (2015). Fluids & electrolytes made incredibly easy (6th ed). Retrieved from: https://ozononicaragua.online.com.ni/PDF/Fluids-y-Electrolytes-Made-Incredibly.pdf

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