Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the importance of
professional organizations on lab social media pages in response to CMS saying
that nurses can perform high complexity tests. It seems to me that there is a
lot of confusion about how professional organizations work. People are
concerned that nurses will always out lobby us on issues and as of right now
that is a possibility, but the only reason for that is because nursing
organizations have more members. Professional organizations survive on two main
things: money and members. The more members an organization has, the louder its
voice. The louder an organization’s voice is; the more likely it is that their
wants and needs will be heard and respected. The money an organization has
comes from member dues. Therefore, logically, more members means more money.
There are over 300,000 medical laboratory professionals in
the United States, but ASCLS only has about 9,000 members. That works out to
about 3%. Sad, right? I know there are multiple professional organizations a
lab professional could join (all of them are great), but remember ASCLS is the
largest lab organization that represents all aspects of the clinical lab and
represents just clinical laboratory professionals and not pathologists as well.
If you are on the fence about joining or not sure if you
want to renew your ASCLS membership, here are just some reasons why you should
strongly consider joining.
ASCLS has a full-time lobbyist in Washington, DC who constantly keeps eye
on legislative issues for us and fights for our best interest every day. Our
lobbyist updates our Government Affairs Committee (GAC) about current
laboratory legislation, and the committee then passes this information out to
members. ASCLS also has a Political Action Committee (PAC), which raises money
for our lobbying efforts. You can experience ASCLS’ legislative efforts first
hand each year at the ASCLS Legislative Symposium in March.
ASCLS-sponsored meetings are a great way to network with others in the
profession. Attending a meeting can help you meet a new potential employer or
employee, a vendor for a new instrument or even just a new friend. Meetings
occur on the state, regional and national level, so there is always a
networking opportunity within reach. While anyone can attend, ASCLS members
always receive discounted rates. Each year at the national level, ASCLS hosts the
Legislative Symposium, the Clinical Laboratory Educators’ Conference (CLEC) and
the National Meeting, which includes the Clinical Lab Expo. In addition to
networking, meetings are a great way to gain continuing education (CE) credits.
Members have access to hundreds of CE programs on a variety of topics that
are offered at low cost— in some cases free. ASCLS also supports the education
of our future professionals through thousands of dollars in grants and
scholarships each year.
Being a part of a professional organization is so much more
than paying dues and then receiving a few mass emails and a newsletter each
month. Next time you find a copy of ASCLS
Today in your mailbox, do yourself a favor and take the time to read it. You
will be surprised with how much information you find inside. Just as we remind
people during election time that, if you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to
complain, the same holds true for professional laboratory organizations. You
can make a difference in the laboratory profession just by signing up.
I just found out recently that Jennifer Lawrence will play
Elizabeth Holmes in a movie about Theranos.1 Now, I love Jennifer Lawrence and think she
is a tremendous actress, but does a movie about Theranos really need to be
made? In reality, we don’t even know how this drama is going to play out, so
what could possibly be written up in a script?
The thing about this movie, if it does eventually get made,
is that it will be putting the lab on the big screen. As I see it, this can go one of two ways. First,
it can be completely inaccurate both on the story of Theranos and the science
of laboratory medicine. Second, they can do their research and portray both the
story and the science correctly. Unfortunately, based off of every other
completely inaccurate medical movie and TV show out there, I’m putting my money
on option 1 at the moment. However, I don’t think this is a lost cause.
Maybe this is wishful thinking, but I think that there is a
possibility that we, as laboratory professionals, could have an impact on this
movie. When cast for a role, some actors will immerse themselves in character’s
life and culture to get a better understanding of how to play the role. What if
we could reach out via social media to the cast and crew to encourage them to
interview real lab professionals to educate them about what working in a lab
really entails? What if we invited them to the AACC Lab expo to get a feel for the
instrumentation and allowed them to tour actual clinical labs? Would they take
us up on the offer?
It may sound like a long shot, but if we have the
opportunity, I don’t see why we shouldn’t try. Our voices are powerful, but a
collective voice is even louder. Imagine
if we could get all of our professional societies to work together to contact
the makers of this film. As members of
professional societies, we could encourage them to do so.
If helping with the film doesn’t work out, we can always
provide our own stories on other potential mainstream outlets. A few years ago,
when the movie Contagion2 came out, the Dr. Oz show had an episode
discussing the real people behind Contagion. It featured a few people that
worked at the CDC, and they explained their jobs. There is no reason why we couldn’t do
something similar when this movie comes out.
It could be us on these talk shows telling everyone what it really means
to be a true lab professional—and all it takes is a collective voice on social
To those that say this is crazy or impossible, I leave you
with some words from the late, great Muhammad Ali, “Impossible is just a big
word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve
been given than to explore the power they have to change it.”
1. Bad Blood. IMDB. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5795144/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_3
2. Contagion. IMDB. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1598778/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
In April, one of my wonderful mentors, Rodney Rohde, PhD,
MS, SV, SM(ASCP)CM, MBCM, and I co-wrote an article
about removing the “hidden” aspect from the phrase “the hidden profession that
saves lives” in honor of Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (MLPW). The article was split into two parts, defining
both the purpose and importance of the medical laboratory to those outside of
the profession, as well as what current professionals can do to increase
awareness of the profession.
Once it was published, we hit the ground running getting the
word out about the article. We turned to
social media and shared the article like there was no tomorrow—posting the
article on numerous lab pages, local news pages, national TV show pages (Dr.
Oz, The Today Show, The Doctors, Ellen, etc.) and of course our own personal
pages to share with our family and friends.
The article took off and was shared thousands of times. I read the comments people wrote on the lab
pages where we shared the article and was surprised to see so much
feedback. Many people wrote that they
enjoyed and appreciated the article.
People expressed pride to be a part of this profession and would share
the article on their own social media pages, boldly saying, “This is what I
do!” I could feel the passion that these people have for our profession through
my computer screen, and it brought me so much joy to know that there were so
many people out there that felt the same way I did.
While the good comments outweighed the bad, it was the bad
ones that seemed to stick out. I understand we all have bad days at work, but
how do you dislike what you do every day? I just don’t understand the
negativity. Regardless of where you
work, we are all lucky enough not only to have a job, but to have one that
saves lives. That, in itself, is enough
reason to like and be proud of what we do.
When I was in college, my advisor, who worked the bench for
many years before getting into education, told us that we would come across
many people in the field like this. Sure
enough, I have come across those people, but through ASCLS, I have found that
there are even more people out there that know the true value of what we do.
My advisor was right when she told me the medical laboratory
profession is one of the best. We are
the first ones to know if a patient has leukemia; we can determine if an organ
is a perfect match; we can deliver blood to the ER that can revive a trauma
patient; we help couples struggling with fertility issues; and the list goes on
and on. Sometimes, I am just in awe of
what I have the capability of doing.
We will always be needed, and a degree in this field can
take you anywhere and you can do anything.
My advice to new graduates of the medical laboratory profession is to
rise above the negativity. In order for
people to respect us as professionals, we must respect and be proud of what we
do first. Ultimately, we all have a
choice. We can chose to lose sight of
why we entered this field and forget the importance of our work or we can take
hold of that passion and take it as far as hard work and our dreams will allow.
To work in the clinical laboratory profession is to be
someone that upholds the highest standards of quality and patient safety, right?
I think the majority of my colleagues would agree with that.
Working in our profession, we do have the ability to say honestly
that we save lives every day, but there is something about that statement that
goes unsaid. We don’t feel the need to say, “When I do my job correctly, I save
lives.” Most of us would never feel the need to say it like that because we
don’t see any other way of doing our job. We result accurate results or we
result nothing. We run QC morning, noon and night; we fill out log sheets; we
study trends, graphs and means; and we run every calibration and proficiency
that comes our way. Many labs even have at least one person that oversees
Now, truth be told, many laboratorians and QC don’t always
get along. I think it would be fair to say that everyone working in the
clinical lab has a few QC horror stories, but despite all of that, we still run
QC! And as I’m sitting here writing this, I’m thinking about how silly this all
sounds. What I’m thinking in my head and what you are probably thinking too is,
“Of course I still run QC, why wouldn’t I?”
I can’t imaging reporting something out without first
insuring my QC was acceptable, so I was shocked to read about some of the QC
practices (or lack thereof) that were occurring at Theranos. In an article1
by Sten Westgard of Westgard Rules, he detailed some of the QC issues that were
cited by CMS. Theranos had many Westgard Rules in place in their SOP’s, but did
not follow them. CMS also cited Theranos for repeating QC multiple times after
it was out without performing a calibration or troubleshooting. On one day, CMS
noted that Theranos ran a control 12 times without obtaining an acceptable
What’s scary about this is that QC is the only way we know
our patient values are correct. I’ve heard this phrase many times from many
laboratorians, “Without proper QC a result is just a random number.” When we do
our jobs correctly, we do have the power to save lives, but if we do it incorrectly,
we can really harm someone. I’m very concerned about the wellbeing of the patients
whose lab tests were run at Theranos during these times of poor QC, but I’m
also worried that Theranos’ mistakes will cause people to have a distrust of
We go into the lab every day and do everything we can to
insure our tests and instruments are accurate. We work to insure patient safety
and quality assurance every day, and we must make an effort to inform our
patients of that. True lab professions get accurate results!
It’s April, which means Medical Laboratory Professionals
is right around the corner. This year, MLPW‘16 falls on April 24-30. Laboratorians
look forward to lab week each year like a young child looks forward to
Christmas morning. Lab week is a time of celebration, games and free food. While
all those things are great, lab week provides us with an opportunity to promote
At its core, lab week is supposed to be a time of
recognition. Not just for lab professionals to recognize all the work we do
each day, but for other healthcare professionals and outsiders to recognize us
as well. The reality is, however, working in areas of the hospital out of
direct contact with most people outside of the lab (like the basement) makes it
hard for them to know what being a lab professional entails. We have to get out
of the lab and speak up about what we do and why we matter. We need to stand up
and show people how we save lives every day.
In our modern era, speaking out about our profession doesn’t
mean standing in front of your hospital on a soapbox yelling about how great
medical laboratory science is—if that’s your thing, that’s fine, but today you
can have just as loud a voice without ever opening your mouth.
I think most of us would shamefully admit that we spend a
lot of time on social media. Between updating Facebook statuses, tweeting and
uploading new pictures to Instagram, we probably spend hours each day online
either in front of a computer or on a smartphone. So, if we are already on
social media, we might as well use that to our advantage.
So, how do we promote MLPW on social media? With hashtags,
of course! Hashtags are the powerhouse of social media campaigns as they are easily
identifiable, searchable and can link several posts about the same topic
together. This year, #LabWeek is all about the hashtag.
ASCLS has some great social media events planned this year
to help spread the word about the profession and to get the conversation
started. What’s great is most that of these events take place over the entire
month. First up is the #Lab4Life 30 day challenge. Each day of April there is a
new prompt about what it means to be a part of this profession. Participants
can post their responses on social media using photos, videos, and/or text
along with the hashtag #Lab4Life.
Another social media event going on this year is the
#IAmASCLS photo contest. Just tag a photo of yourself either alone or with a
group that shows who you are as a professional and an ASCLS member and then add
the #IAmASCLS hashtag to enter. Each week the photo with the most “likes” will
win a prize! For those of you that like to run or walk, the Lab Week Run is
available as well. Run alone or get a walking group organized at your workplace—either
way you are promoting the profession. However you end up celebrating Lab Week,
just make sure you share it on social media. Let’s show everyone why we are
#MLPW2016 #WeSaveLivesEveryday #LabWeek #Lab4Life
Learn more about these and other MLPW events here:
The next time you are in a doctor’s office or hospital for
an appointment for either yourself or a loved one, think about this: What would you do if the appointment room you
were in was filthy? How would that make
you feel? Would you still be comfortable
having the doctor see you with the trash in the room overflowing and dirty
floors and counters? What about if the
air conditioner in your appointment room is broken in the middle of a heat wave
or the heater in the room is broken in the dead of winter? Would you stay in
the room and let the doctor still see you?
Let’s say the housekeeper from environmental services didn’t
clean the exam room and the HVAC guys from physical plant didn’t fix the heater
in the room either. The patient, annoyed
and uncomfortable, leaves the appointment.
Because the patient left the appointment, they weren’t able to get their
radiology testing done. Since there are
no radiology results, the doctor is unable to determine what further testing
needs to be done and is unable to order any lab tests. With no lab tests requested, the nurse has no
samples to draw and the lab has no samples to run. Because the lab wasn’t able to perform any
testing, the pharmacist is now unsure if the medication the patient is taking
is the right dose. Now, if the room was
clean and the heater was fixed, we would be telling a different story.
The point I’m trying to make is that in healthcare everyone
matters. Doctors aren’t better than
nurses, nurses aren’t better than lab professionals and pharmacists aren’t
better than environmental services.
There isn’t a hierarchy of who is the most important person in
healthcare. We are all important and
play a vital role in patient care, and if just one piece of the puzzle goes
missing, the system falls apart.
Early this month the American Osteopathic Association (AOA)
released its new ad campaign, “Doctors That DO.” Their new ads say things like, “An X-ray
doesn’t see you as a person. I DO,” and “Lab tests don’t care. I DO.” Many people felt that these ads were an
attack on other health professionals, namely radiology and the laboratory. I do not believe these ads were meant to be
an attack or a way to show that DO’s are better than other healthcare
professionals. Personally, I think their
true message became lost in translation and the ads could have been worded
As these ads started to appear on social media, many lab
professionals criticized the ads for being disrespectful to the lab. Many people emailed the AOA and posted to their
Facebook page with complaints about the new ads. When I saw that people were doing this, it
did make me happy. I was glad to see
people standing up and showing pride in their profession. On the flip side, however, I did have some
concerns that some lab professionals would come across to DO’s as looking like
they were trying to put down other health professions. The moral of the story here is not “I do,” or
“They do,” it’s “We do.” A doctor does
not treat a patient, a lab professional does not diagnosis a patient and a
pharmacist does not cure a patient, but the healthcare team does.
Getting people to volunteer for something is like pulling
teeth. Whether it’s a task at work or a leadership role in a professional
organization, the process of looking for volunteers usually follows the same
story. No one steps up and, eventually, the person that always ends up
volunteering—either because they willingly want to or they just cave into the
pressure—agrees to do it. In order to reduce burnout in the lab and in our
professional societies, we need to figure out ways to get other people
When there is a new project at work or an open position on a
committee, someone usually makes an announcement about it. This can be done
verbally in front of a group or through written communication like an email or
flyer. While this may seem like the best way to look for volunteers, making
announcements generally does not get many people’s attention. If you want
people to volunteer, ask them directly. Sometimes people may be too shy or
uncomfortable to volunteer for an opportunity themselves. By asking people to
volunteer directly you can potentially help lessen their anxiety about
volunteering and personally let them know that they would be good for the task.
A big mistake people make when looking for volunteers is to assume
that, if someone volunteers once, they will volunteer for life. This happens
often in professional organizations and can result in burnout of individuals. When
looking for volunteers for a project or committee, don’t go into it looking to
get people who are willing to make a life-time commitment. Instead, focus on
that one particular volunteer opportunity. People are more willing to volunteer
for short-term commitments or those with an end-date in sight. Be upfront about
the timeline when asking for volunteers and give people an idea of how long
they have to be committed. If people feel like they were satisfied with what they
volunteered for, they will be more likely to volunteer again—but don’t assume
that they will.
It is important to remember, however, that, just because
someone says “No” to one volunteer opportunity, this doesn’t mean that they
will say “No” to a different volunteer opportunity in the future. Most of the
time, “No” does not mean “Never.” It just means “Not now”. Additionally,
another common reason for declining a volunteer opportunity is that the people
would rather do something else. Ask them if there is another position or task
they would be interested in and follow up with that person if that opportunity
arises in the future.
At the end of the day, if a volunteer cannot be found, it
may just be for the best. Forcing someone to volunteer for something just to
fill a spot or a need can have many negative effects. A volunteer needs to be
more than a body; they need to be able to properly fulfill the task. Sometimes
an empty chair is better than a chair filled with the wrong person.
What does it mean to be good at your job? Does it mean that
you work quickly or make few mistakes? Or does it mean that you’re a good
problem solver or a team player? Whatever you or your manager’s description of
a good employee entails, chances are you would like to be one.
While there are people out there simply working for the
paycheck, I think that many people try to make the time between punching in and
out really count. Striving to be a good employee allows us to take pride in our
work. In addition to knowing internally that we are working to the best of our
abilities, many of us would like our hard work to be recognized by others. Most
people would like to receive some sort of praise after a job well done. Sometimes,
however, the rewards that come with the recognition of being a good employee
are not that great.
Is it possible to be too good at your job? It seems like a
silly question, but a serious one at that. More often than not, a good employee
will end up burdened by their own competence. A good employee will be noticed
by their manager and will slowly start to be assigned more tasks. It is
initially viewed as a way to praise the employee, but over time the new tasks
keep coming and are more frequent while their original tasks are still their
responsibility. The good employee will usually take on all the new tasks
without question and will no doubt perform well on all of them, but this puts
the good employee into a trap. The more the good employee does, the more that
will be expected of them. Eventually, those taking on extra work will not be
viewed as helping out; it will simply be expected.
Just because an employee is good at their job doesn’t mean
that is it’s any easier for them to complete the assigned tasks. They may have
better time management or organizational skills to get it all done, but it
doesn’t make the extra assignments any less stressful. Somewhere down the line,
the good employee will begin to see that they are being treated differently
from their other co-workers. The big problem here is that, eventually, the good
employee will see that they are being taking advantage of, which can potentially
result in a conflict between the good employee and the manager. After these
feelings have been built up for so long, it can result in an emotional
If you feel like you are being taken advantage of by your
manager, let them know. Do not continue to say, “yes,” until you reach your
breaking point. Always speak up about a situation before it becomes a bigger
problem. Chances are that your manager didn’t realize they were doing it, and
you can work together to set things straight.
When a co-worker leaves the lab for whatever reason, you
lose more than just a person capable of doing the job. You lose a personality,
an attitude and a perspective. The lab hierarchy shifts, and lab practices are
altered. Schedules are changed, workloads are adjusted and tasks are delegated
When a co-worker leaves that was toxic to the lab
environment, the lab dynamic immediately changes. Initially, the moral goes up,
but the increase in positive vibes in the lab eventually simmers. Once we
realize that losing a negative attitude in the lab only takes us so far, we
begin to understand that new problems are created from the loss of an employee.
It is the responsibility of everyone still working in the lab to better the
work environment. We have the ability to determine the culture of a lab, and
the loss of an employee is the perfect time to re-evaluate that culture.
Toxic employees have a tendency to be resistant to change,
and it is likely that any new policy or procedure in the lab was challenged by
this employee. When a lab loses someone that had a difficult time adapting to
change, it makes it easier for everyone else to present ideas. During this time,
everyone in the lab needs to come together and start engaging in some open dialog.
Now is the time to be revisiting old ideas that were never put into place and
to be presenting new ones. With a toxic employee gone, people in the lab that
may have been hesitant to speak up before may be more willing to participate in
As a new professional, it is always hard to stand up and
voice your opinion at work. We have a bad habit of thinking to ourselves, “What
do I know?” or, “Why would they listen to me?” The truth is that the
perspective of a new professional is a very valuable one. Because we haven’t
been working for very long, we see everything with a fresh pair of eyes. Sometimes,
we are able to see the ways things can be changed or fixed that those that have
been working 10-20 years or more just can’t.
New professionals are the future of the lab. An employee
leaving increases your seniority, but no matter where you fall on the totem
pole, always remember that your opinion is just as important as all your other
“Do I need to call back this critical result on that
That was something I never thought I would say working in a
lab. Most of us working in the clinical lab only deal with human patient
samples, but where I work not all the samples in an assay run are necessarily
from the same species.
In our toxicology lab, the animals (other than humans) we
work with are cats, dogs and monkeys. No, these animals aren’t being tested for
drugs of abuse; their samples are sent to our lab for therapeutic drug
monitoring. All the animal samples we receive are being monitored for
immunosuppressive drugs. These animals have received kidney transplants and are
now on a regimen of immunosuppressives (usually cyclosporine, but occasionally
tacrolimus or rapamycin) to reduce the likelihood that they will reject the
The monkey samples we receive are for research, but the cats
and the rare dog are actual patients, not much different than a human kidney
transplant patient. Feline Kidney Transplantation is not offered at many
veterinary hospitals, but is becoming more popular. Our cat samples come from
the local veterinary hospital, but occasionally samples will come from further
away—specifically from the University of Wisconsin Veterinary Hospital.
A cat is eligible for a renal transplant if they are in
either acute or chronic renal failure. They must be losing weight and/or
becoming anemic despite their regular medical management and be free of other
conditions such as heart disease, urinary tract infections and cancer. The
donor cat is usually a stray cat that has been taken in by the vet. The owner
of the cat receiving the kidney is then required to adopt the donor cat. Donor
selection for cats is based on blood crossmatch compatibility. Unlike humans,
who may be on an organ donor wait list for months, the waiting list is
typically only two to four weeks for cats. The donor and the recipient
surgeries are performed simultaneously and takes about four to six hours.
The lab comes into play the day before the surgery when we
receive the first tube of blood on the cat to test their cyclosporine level. Cyclosporine
is extracted from whole blood and is tested using LC/MS in our lab. The vet’s
goal is to obtain a trough concentration of 300 to 500ng/mL for surgery. We
will continue to receive samples on the cat after the surgery, as the
cyclosporine level is to be maintained for one to three months afterwards and
then reduced to 250ng/mL for maintenance therapy. As in humans, not all
patients that take cyclosporine respond in the same way. Hence, the blood
levels need to be monitored to maintain therapeutic concentrations and minimize
toxic side effects.
As lab professionals, we are always told remember that each
sample is not just a tube, but someone’s child, parent or grandparent. I’ve
learned, however, that sometimes that sample might just be someone’s fluffy
Intrigued by cat kidney transplantation? You can learn more
about it here: http://www.vet.upenn.edu/veterinary-hospitals/ryan-veterinary-hospital/services/comprehensive-urology-care/renal-transplantation
Laboratory-developed tests (LDTs) are tests that are
designed, manufactured and used by a single lab. In the past, LDTs were used mostly for rare
conditions, but they are now becoming more popular. More and more labs are using LDTs to test for
common and serious conditions like cancer and heart disease.
A hot topic in health policy right now is the FDA’s proposal
to take over oversight of LDTs. Up until now, LDTs were not held up against the
highest level of scrutiny under existing FDA laws. Instead, LDTs had to adhere
to the regulatory requirements of the Clinical Laboratory Improvement
Amendments (CLIA). The FDA would now like have more oversight over LDTs, as the
agency believes some LDTs have caused harm to patients, mostly due to
false-positive and false-negative results. Keeping politics aside, I’ve come to
realize a few things about both LDTs and commercial tests from my time working
This past summer, I had the opportunity to do a validation
study for a new LDT assay in my lab. My toxicology lab runs mostly LDTs; all of
our assays that run on GC/MS and LC/MS are LDTs. During the validation study, I
worked very closely with our technical specialist for several weeks setting up
numerous sample runs testing everything from matrix effects to accuracy and
precision. In addition to the lab work, we spent many hours in front of an
excel sheet, crunching data. Being able to help with this validation study
really opened my eyes to how much work goes into proving a test is safe and
Do the LDTs in my lab occasionally produce false
results? Yes, I’m sure they do, but I
know for a fact that our assays performed using commercial test kits produce
false results as well. No test is perfect, and the reality is that, in every
LDT SOP or commercial package insert, you will find information on false
negatives and false positives. The key is to know that these things exist and
that all results should be looked at within the big clinical picture. Commercial
instruments and assay kits may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and LDTs
may take countless hours to develop, but no matter how much you pay or how hard
you work, no assay will ever have a brain.
We, the lab professionals, are the ones with the brains—the
ones with the critical thinking skills. It is our job to look at results and
determine if they make sense. False positives and false negatives will happen,
but we have the knowledge to be able to detect them when they occur. Whether
you are running a simple waived test or a complex LDT, critical thinking skills
are always needed. The most important
aspect of the test is always the person conducting the assay. Lab tests will
never be perfect and neither will humans, but proper test oversight, along with
certified and licensed lab professionals, will bring us as close to perfect as
we can get.
Last month, Payscale.com released a list of the most
meaningful college majors as part of their 2015-2016 College Salary Report. To
rank the 319 college majors that were in consideration, survey respondents were
asked if they feel that their job “makes the world a better place.” The
percentage of respondents who said they gain a “high” level of meaning from
their work determined the rankings. At the top of the list was medical
laboratory science with a whopping 97 percent high meaning score -- 6 percent
higher than the second place major, pastoral ministry.
Interestingly, tied for third place, along with community
health education and respiratory care, was clinical laboratory science. Clinical
laboratory science had an 84 percent high meaning score, a 13 percent
difference from the MLS score. To anyone on the outside, this wouldn’t raise an
eyebrow, but all of us in the know have to stop and take notice of this. This
multiple name situation does not fall under Juliet’s saying, “A rose by any
other name would smell as sweet,” in the world outside of the lab. Non-lab
professionals view clinical laboratory science and medical laboratory science
as two different majors, and who even knows if medical technology was part of
the survey as well.
This is just a real life example of why it is so important
for our profession to streamline its identity, but I digress.
The main point is that medical laboratory science is a
meaningful major and career. This is something that all of us working in the
clinical lab are already aware of, but we now have the spotlight on us outside
of the lab. Being a profession that is mostly behind the scenes, we have to
really work hard to let ourselves be known. These survey results might be the
extra push we need to let the world know who we are, what we do and why we are
so important. In a profession that has a projected growth rate of 22 percent by
the year 2022 (double the average growth rate for all professions), we need
more people to enter the field. What better way to advertise then by showing
you can really make a difference with this major?
Because the survey was conducted by Payscale.com, average
salaries were also listed with the rankings to show the correlation, if any,
between salary and level of meaningfulness. Forbes said it best by saying,
“Careers closely linked with the word “meaningful” also tend to be categorized
as poorly compensated. But many of the degrees on this list provide the
professionals that hold them with careers that combine a healthy financial life
with a powerful sense of purpose.” MLS was listed having a mid-career median
pay of $61,500 and CLS was listed as $60,100.
This survey is the positive press that our profession needs.
Let’s hope that both college bound students or people looking for a career
change will see these results and consider MLS (or CLS) as a possible college
A lab should run like a finely tuned instrument -- with each
person doing their part to keep things going and get the results out -- but
like any instrument in a lab, sometimes things just break down. While lab work
may seem like an independent job most of the time, it is really a team effort. Many
people have the ideology in daily lab work that they are responsible for the
bench they are assigned to for that day and that’s it. Anything that happens on
another bench, or even the same bench before or after their shift, is another
person’s problem. While everyone has had a bad day at work where they feel like
this at some point, there are some people working in the lab that have these
thoughts all the time. These beliefs are toxic to the lab environment and could
potentially affect patient results.
This past week, I experienced two situations where
co-workers’ mistakes affected my work. I know they didn’t make these mistakes
on purpose and that everyone makes mistakes, but it just goes to show how your
work affects more than just yourself. These mistakes caused turnaround times to
be missed and resulted in time and energy wasted troubleshooting before the
mistake was detected. I have to admit that these situations were very
frustrating and I came very close to losing my cool at work, but now that the
situation has passed, I am more capable of looking at the situation as
something I can learn from for the future.
So, what do you do when you find yourself in a situation
where a co-worker’s mistake affects your work? A wonderful article I found from
the Harvard Business Review1 had some answers. The article stressed
that, while you may be upset in the moment and want to run to your manager,
that is not the way to go. When a co-worker makes a mistake, you can’t be sure
why it happened until you get more information. You won’t be aware of whether
the mistake was made because of lack knowledge, experience or awareness until
you communicate directly with your co-worker.
The article has some good do’s and don’ts to remember in
situations like these. Remember that relationships with your co-workers do
matter. You don’t have to be friends with them, but you should always be
professional. Speak directly with your co-worker first before going to your
manager. Be direct and honest with them about the mistake and how it affected
you. When you figure out why the mistake was made, offer to help the person if
you can. While it can be hard at times in these situations, don’t badmouth your
co-worker as this just makes both of you look bad. Also, don’t assume that your
co-worker knows that they made a mistake.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where a
co-worker’s mistake affected you? How did you deal with it?
1. Gallo, Amy. "When a colleague’s mistakes affect
you." Harvard Business Review. 8 Oct. 2009. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.
“If you cannot see
where you are going, ask someone who has been there before.” – J. Loren
In every profession, there are people that are just starting
out and people that have been around for years. To someone just starting out,
these more seasoned professionals can seem intimidating. We tend to put people
with more experience up on a pedestal, and can’t imagine them ever making a
mistake. In reality, though, they could not have reached this point in their
career without making an error. Everyone is human and will mess up or make a
wrong call at some point, but that is all part of the learning process.
In the big picture, making a mistake is not the real issue;
the real issue is knowing how to react to a mistake and how to move forward. Sometimes
the best way to encourage yourself to dive back into something after making a
mistake is by talking to someone who has been there before.
Mentorship is important in any career. In technical terms,
mentorship is a relationship between someone with more experience and more
knowledge in a subject and a person who is perceived to have less. In simpler
words, a mentor is someone that a mentee can turn to for advice and guidance in
all aspects of their life.
Mentor relationships offer many benefits to both the mentee
and the mentor. Having a mentor can give you someone to turn to when you find
yourself in situations that you are unsure of or need support to overcome. Mentors
can help a person set goals and make plans to achieve them and provide their
mentee with a new perspective. While mentees greatly benefit from a mentor
relationship, the mentor benefits as well. Mentors gain a better understanding
of their own role by teaching others and develop a feeling of value.
If you are looking for a mentor, look for someone that you
respect who has gone down a career path similar to the one you are trying to
emulate. A mentor does not necessarily have to be someone you work with or even
someone you have met in person. If you don’t know of anyone that you think
might be a good fit for you, reach out to your professional organization. Networking
and mentorship go hand in hand. ASCLS is working on a mentorship program for
people in the profession. If you are in need of a mentor, just reach out to
At the end of the day, you want your mentor to be someone
you admire on a personal level, not just a professional one. Whether your
conversations are in person or through email, they should always be pleasant,
engaging and inspiring.
When I was in college, someone told me to say, “Yes,” to
every opportunity that arises. They said not to doubt yourself and let the
negative thoughts consume you -- just say, “Yes.” As someone that has struggled
with self-doubt and low self-esteem most of my life, I took the advice to
heart. It made me realize that the only way I could really know if I was
capable of something was if I actually put myself out there and tried it.
So, with every opportunity that arose that I might have been
too hesitant to take before, I eagerly said, “Yes.” I said, “Yes,” to an after
school job in central receiving at the hospital I did my internship at. Although
I was worried I wouldn’t have enough time to study, I excelled at my course
work and gained valuable skills that put me ahead when applying for a job after
graduation. I said, “Yes,” to becoming the ASCLS-PA student representative,
even though I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Saying, “Yes,” to
that opportunity lead to so many more wonderful opportunities within ASCLS --
all of which I said, “Yes,” to as well. Taking on these opportunities and
challenges lead me to the success and accomplishments I’ve had today.
Saying, “Yes,” has been a big part of my first year of work
as well. I’ve said, “Yes,” to overtime and special projects and tasks, and
doing so has helped me stand out at work. I think I can say that I’ve learned
to say, “Yes,” to opportunities, and if I had to do it all over again I would. What
I’ve realized over the past few months, however, is that the easier it gets to
say, “Yes,” the harder it gets to say, “No.” I’ve learned that I need to start
saying, “No,” again.
Saying, “No,” to an opportunity at work -- or elsewhere --
can be nerve-racking. It can make you feel like you’re lazy or you aren’t
ambitious enough, but the truth is that saying, “No,” to an opportunity can be
a courageous and brave thing to do. Sometimes knowing when to step back shows
just as much leadership and confidence as taking on the opportunity. Many
people feel that they need to over exert themselves, and that can lead to
burnout. It is better to be able to give yourself 100 percent to a few things
and be proud of the work you do than to give less than 100 percent to many
things and know you are not giving it your best.
Learning when to say, “Yes,” and when to say, “No,” is
something that takes time. We must all find a balance between the two and have
confidence in whatever answer we choose.