Words Have Power, Choose Them Wisely
A nurse calls from the oncology clinic wanting to know how long she would have to wait to get the results of a CBC in order to start the patient's chemotherapy. The lab assistant answering the phone stumbles and says something like "we are really short staffed today. We are working on it and will get out a soon as possible; I can't give you a time."
She does not tell the hematology technologist about the call. Ten minutes later, the nurse calls again, the tech realizes the smear is still in the stainer and says simply "It's on the machine and will be off in about 10 to 15 minutes." The nurse says sarcastically "You all need to get faster machines" and hangs up.
Fifteen minutes later, the physician himself calls and is really mad. He berates the laboratorian who answers the phone and asks if she realizes how important it is to get results back in a timely manner. He says he is especially interested in the platelet count and seeing if there are any blast cells.
This time the tech says, "I am sorry about the delay. The automated part of the CBC is ready and I can give you the platelet count, WBC and H&H right now. The smear has just been stained and I am about to take a look at it microscopically. It should take me about 5 minutes or so, but I will be happy to call you back if I see any blasts even before I do the entire differential. Would that help?"
Which conversation do you think is more useful and powerful? Not only did the tech provide valuable information to the physician, she used language indicating she was aware of the lab's role in patient care. The lab assistant was dismissive and vague. The first tech made the lab seem like a bystander, simply passing on automated results generated by instruments.
This is a very simple example of how laboratorians can either play into negative stereotypes or how subtle choice of words can present a more positive, progressive view of the laboratory's role in patient care.