Collecting a Sputum Sample
Usually our respiratory therapists are the ones that get sputum samples from patients. Oftentimes that are on patients that are on mechanical ventilation and they perform an bronchioalveolar lavage (BAL) to get their specimen. If you have a regular patient in need of a sputum sample, here is what you need:
Supplies: Sterile specimen container
Sputum samples are definitely one of my least favorite of samples to collect. Luckily in the ICU we have respiratory therapists that deal with that for us! For normal patients, however, we do the collecting. Sputum samples are collected mainly for culturing. Specimens are "cultured" to see what type, if any, of bacteria is present in the sample. One of the most common reasons to have a sputum specimen collected is to diagnose tuberculosis.
Collecting a sputum sample is as simple as it seems. Give the patient the specimen collection container. Instruct them to keep the inside of the cup and the bottom of the lid as clean as possible. Have the paitent cough up some phelgm and spit it into the cup. An optimal amount of sputum is about a teaspoon full. Seal the lid on the specimen and send to the lab.
Be sure to label specimen container with the patient's sticker and your initials, date, and the time.