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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Lab Week Is About More Than Food and T-Shirts

Published April 2, 2008 1:46 PM by Glen McDaniel

This year National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (NMLPW) will be observed April 20-26. The theme this year is National Medical Laboratory Professionals: Delivering Today's Results for a Healthier Tomorrow.

Sponsored by 10 laboratory organizations this year (it's remarkable that any organizations can agree on anything) NMLPW is designed to highlight the importance of the nation's more than 260,000 clinical laboratorians. 

Started by ASCLS (then called ASMT) in 1975, the week has been anticipated by laboratorians over the years because it is an opportunity to celebrate and toot our own horns a bit. In the Fall of 2005, the word "professional" was added to the title to emphasize that the celebration is about living, breathing, smart, dedicated individuals and not simply a room--"the lab."

One of the things most laboratorians look forward to during lab week is all the cool stuff--magnets, t-shirts, lunches and breakfasts courtesy of administration or one of the few vendors that still offer such perks.

That's all well and good, but the week is about way more than hanging banners, wearing cool t-shirts and celebrating in the lab. For one thing, this is no time for false modesty or insularity. Sing your own praises and loudly applaud each of your colleagues. By all means, provide tours and free testing, but also take time to educate healthcare colleagues and the public about the training and important role of the clinical laboratorian.

Who are all these people in the black box called "the lab?"  What do they do to produce a valid result? What's their educational preparation? What are the relative roles of phlebotomists, customer service reps, lab assistants, CLS/MTs? What's the difference in training, role and specialties?

We have a real opportunity that we mostly squander each year by looking inward way too much. We can wear cool t-shirts, eat good food and educate all at the same time.

3 comments

I am disappointed that only one other person besides myself considered this topic important enough to contribute feedback.  More of us medical laboratory professionals need to prioritize sharing the significant importance of our work in the patient care process with our colleagues outside of the laboratory AND people in the community who may have no idea who performs tests and produces their after a blood (or other) specimen is collected.  Check out http://www.labsarevital.com

When enough of us take the initiative to educate those outside of our profession about our vital role in health care, only then will the lab cease to be perceived as an anonymous "hole in the wall," only receiving negative attention when it is blamed for less-than-satisfactory outcomes by other departments who do not recognize the hard work we put into providing quality results and contributing to excellence in patient care.  

Going out and earning the recognition we want for ourselves will go a long way toward elevating the status (and possibly pay rates... a girl can dream!) of laboratory professionals to that of nurses, pharmacists, etc.

Stephanie Mathis, MT(ASCP), Generalist - Clinical Laboratory Scientist, Medical Staffing Network May 16, 2008 11:28 AM
Danville VA

I am in the process of writing an article about our profession, but found that the importance of what we do in this field starts at the educator's level. While I agree that food and T-shirts are the perks, I think that is a way of showing appreciation. We are having the news media come to our school, with donated shirts adorn, my students are providing lab tours and free health screenings. While this is rather elementary for them at this stage, we have also brought the focus to our clinical affiliates for the jobs that they do with our students everyday.

These afifiliates give so much of themselves everyday - not just during lab week. We are a quiet, non-mentioned group of individuals that get very little praise in our profession. We like to hear thank you from most any person that says it, and from our students.... speaks volumes.

I love my job; educating our future co-workers. Seeing the look of accomplishment on thier faces is my reward everyday. To those of you that are still in the hospital, you also have a reward everyday. Knowing that you changed a life, saved a life, or built a life of one of my student's is your reward. Although you may not hear it everyday ... you are appreciated! Thank you for all you do.

Karen Burgess, CLT - Clinical Lab Technology Program Coordinator, Valdosta Technical College April 21, 2008 3:33 PM
Valdosta GA

One of the most interesting gifts I received for NMLPW in 2006 was a change purse.  I thought that this was very appropriate because clinical laboratory scientists with bachelors' degrees are compensated at a significantly lower rate than that of registered nurses with associates' degrees - and, therefore, have to "count their coins" much more closely.

I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper either in April of last year or the year before that, explaining why medical laboratory professionals are as important to patient care as nurses.  However, I do not believe that it was published because it may have been considered "too long" or relatively unimportant to the general public by whoever decides which letters get published at that newspaper.  That's sad because I enjoy writing, and explaining what I do in my job to those not familiar with it, about as much as I enjoy working in the medical laboratory.

Stephanie Mathis,MT(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Technologist, Medical Staffing Network April 7, 2008 4:23 PM
Danville VA

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