Invisibility in the Outpatient Laboratory


  • Megan Shetterly, MS, RN Patient Safety Authority



If you are a Harry Potter fan, you are familiar with the term “cloak of invisibility”: a magical cloth that renders the object it covers or the person who dons it invisible. What does this fictional artefact have to do with patient safety? Well, in this case it serves as a metaphor for patients (including me) who have felt their identities were overlooked (cloaked) during the blood draw process.

Maybe you have had this experience: You walk into the outpatient laboratory setting, register, then sit in the waiting room until they call your name and direct you to the room where you will have your bloodwork drawn. It’s fairly routine. Once you enter the blood draw room, the phlebotomist makes one last check, usually by asking your name and date of birth and cross-referencing it with the identification information on their laboratory orders. When this information is confirmed, the phlebotomist gathers their supplies, applies the tourniquet to your arm, accesses your vein with a “little prick," and starts filling up tubes of blood. Usually, this process only takes a few minutes and voilà, you are done!

Author Biography

Megan Shetterly, MS, RN, Patient Safety Authority

Megan Shetterly ( is a senior patient safety liaison at the Patient Safety Authority, working with various Pennsylvania healthcare facilities to reduce medical errors. In her role, she has facilitated collaborative patient safety projects focused on blood specimen labeling and preoperative screening. She is a certified professional in patient safety (CPPS), is certified in Just Culture Training, and is a TeamSTEPPS master trainer.


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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Division of Laboratory Systems. Strengthening Clinical Laboratories. November 15, 2018 [cited 2021 April 8] Available from:

Three patients sitting in an outpatient lab, but their bodies are invisible, not their clothes.



How to Cite

Shetterly, M. (2021). Invisibility in the Outpatient Laboratory. Patient Safety, 3(3), 56–59.
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