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What’s in it for Me?
August 24, 2016 3:49 PM by Stephanie Noblit

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.

Representation on Capitol Hill
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.

Networking
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.

Educational Opportunities
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. 

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Going Mainstream
July 5, 2016 1:52 PM by Stephanie Noblit

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 media. 

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.”

References:

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

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Rise Above the Negativity
May 25, 2016 9:02 AM by Stephanie Noblit

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.

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More Than Just a Number
May 2, 2016 1:07 PM by Stephanie Noblit

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 quality.

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 value.

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 all labs.

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!

 

References:

1. http://james.westgard.com/the_westgard_rules/2016/04/another-thing- about-theranos.html

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Go Viral for MLPW
April 4, 2016 8:29 AM by Stephanie Noblit

It’s April, which means Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (MLPW) 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 our profession.

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 #Lab4Life!

#MLPW2016 #WeSaveLivesEveryday #LabWeek #Lab4Life

Learn more about these and other MLPW events here: http://www.ascls.org/medical-laboratory-professionals-week

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We Do
February 29, 2016 11:20 AM by Stephanie Noblit

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 better.

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.  

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Pulling Teeth
February 19, 2016 1:13 PM by Stephanie Noblit

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 involved.

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.

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The Bad Side of the Good
February 5, 2016 10:50 AM by Stephanie Noblit

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 confrontation.

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. 

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A New Year, A New Lab
January 15, 2016 9:58 AM by Stephanie Noblit

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 to others.

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 discussions.

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 co-workers. 

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Cats, Dogs and Monkeys. Oh My.
December 14, 2015 12:28 PM by Stephanie Noblit

“Do I need to call back this critical result on that monkey?”

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 transplant.

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 companion.

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

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If I Only Had a Brain
November 24, 2015 11:03 AM by Stephanie Noblit

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 the bench.

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 accurate.

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. 

 

References:

1. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/44498/title/FDA--Lab-Tests-Can-Cause-Harm/

2. http://fortune.com/2015/11/17/fda-lab-tests-regulation/

 

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More Meaningful than Most
October 19, 2015 1:38 PM by Stephanie Noblit

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 major. 

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One Person’s Mistake is Another’s Problem
October 2, 2015 3:48 PM by Stephanie Noblit

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?

 

References:

1. Gallo, Amy. "When a colleague’s mistakes affect you." Harvard Business Review. 8 Oct. 2009. Web. 30 Sept. 2015. <https://hbr.org/2009/10/when-a-colleagues-mistakes-aff.html>.

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The Importance of Mentorship
September 14, 2015 12:26 PM by Stephanie Noblit

“If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before.” – J. Loren Norris

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 ASCLS!

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. 

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The Yes/No Dilemma
August 24, 2015 4:45 PM by Stephanie Noblit

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. 

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