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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

I Love Nurses!

Published July 15, 2009 2:24 PM by Glen McDaniel

A few minutes ago, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee  passed a bill to revamp the health care system

Celebrating the passage of the bill, President Barack Obama, surrounded by nursing leaders at the White House , proclaimed "I love nurses!" This is the third time I have heard Obama repeat that sentiment. He talked about the time when one of his daughters had meningitis and , despite the fine work of the doctors, it was nurses who were there to take care of the child as well as comfort the parents.

The President made no mention of the fact that it was clinical laboratorians who provided the data for a definitive diagnosis, which would then guide treatment. Meningitis is  positively confirmed only through laboratory testing.

He described that during the birth of both his girls the OB/Gyn was present for "a total of maybe 10 minutes. The rest of the time the people we saw were nurses. I  know how important nurses are."

Again, I bet those infants had their cord blood tested, possibly bilirubin, certainly there was a host of new born screening tests including sickle cell, PKU and a host of others. I do not fault the President for ignoring the importance of clinical lab scientists. Certainly his view of us as a transparent profession is typical of society as a whole.

It is commendable when people, including the President, start realizing that doctors are not the only important players in healthcare. But they need to realize that others, including CLS/CLTs are vitally important as well.

As the debate on universal healthcare proceeds and heats up, we have yet another golden opportunity to explain to family, politicians, healthcare leaders and policy wonks that- whatever the outcome- clinical laboratory scientists must have a seat at the table.





Thanks for sharing the link to that article in the Wall Street Journal. Kudos to my fellow clinical laboratorians who took the time to write comments, clarifying our role, explaining  levels of practice, disputing inaccuracies and emphasizing the importance of CLS as a profession.

As individuals we do not do that nearly enough; yet no one else will do it for us!

Glen McDaniel July 26, 2009 6:08 PM

Check out the comment from Anna Ciulla, chair of the "Medical Technology" department at the University of Delaware. (Click on "comments" tab between the headline and body of this article.) Ms. Ciulla goes into some excellent detail about exactly how a hospital would become "nothing more than a nursing home" and not actually be able to TREAT injuries or illnesses if us lab folks were to go on "strike" for even ONE day!

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center July 26, 2009 5:07 AM
Danville VA

Being a fairly new tech I often hear of the days when nurses made less money, how they organized, and now have surpassed us. I think alot of things come into to play when explaining this. I think 2 major problem areas with the laboratory community are personality and cultural make-up of the laboratory worker. First by nature lab professionals tend to be introverts. We like our space and the no contact aspect of our jobs. We do not like to be in the spotlight. Second from my work experience the lab is filled with techs from various countries. Actually on my shift I am only 1 of 2 techs that were actually born in the United States. I think this is a big factor because coming from countries were they may have made less money they do not see the disparity in pay and lack of respect that this field receives. They tend not to want to "rock the boat" because what they have here is so much better than what they would have in their homeland. I think all laboratory workers should know their true value. It starts with us. If nurses go on strike it is easy to bring in replacements who can manage to do their jobs for them. In the lab it is not so easy with all the analyzers we use and manual testing that we do. If we were to ever go on strike we would cripple the healthcare industry. Once legislators, the public, other healtcare workers, and most improtant we the lab workers realize this, then we can begin to get the pay and recognition we deserve.

Cheryl July 26, 2009 12:38 AM
Houston TX

Way to go Stephanie!! No matter how you feel about Michael Jackson- or even trying to figure out if that suggestion was serious or frivolous- one must admit your comment was bold and appropriate.

Some people might be shocked that you were "bold" enough to make that comment. But the same people would not bat an eye if a nurse or teacher or doctor had commented on THEIR relative importance to the health care system.

I bet you educated some readers about the role of clinical laboratorians; and our educational background.

Your action falls into the "each on teach one" category and symbolizes that every clinical laboratorian can help to effect change by small individual actions.

Glen McDaniel July 23, 2009 8:08 PM

I had to put in my two cents worth when a poll about whether a national holiday for Michael Jackson should be established showed up on Facebook either today or yesterday... Here's what I posted:

"Medical laboratory professionals (many of whom have four-year college degrees) should get a national holiday long before Michael Jackson does because of the important information they provide to doctors, which can save lives!  At the very least, it would be great if they were paid as much as registered nurses with two-year/associate degrees."

Stephanie Mathis, MT(ASCP), Generalist - Clinical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center July 22, 2009 11:55 PM
Danville VA


You have made an astute observation as a newcomer to the profession. Because of the age and history of our profession, as well as its important role in healthcare delivery, clinical laboratorians SHOULD be more recognized and respected.

To see why we are not, one has to look at some historical realities; most of which I have written about extensively over the years.

Issues like lack of personnel licensure ("anyone" can legally do what we do), multiple warring membership and certification agencies, low visibility to the public/patients/other healthcare workers, and a host of others. One common denominator though is the tendency to sit back and accept our lot as a done deal- "that's just the way it is.” Another is the choice to wait for "them" (whoever "them is") to voluntarily give us better pay, prestige and respect. That will never happen.

I am old enough to recall when nurses were struggling with their image, pay and autonomy, much more than they are now. They were paid less than laboratorians (many of whom have more formal education).

Nurses embarked on a concerted campaign by the profession itself to engage the public, patients and legislators. I have seen their salary match, then eclipse and bypass that of clinical laboratorians. I have seen nurses carve out niches within the healthcare team. I have seen them demand a seat at the table when healthcare decisions are being made.

We just have to do the same. And as cliched as it sounds, it starts with each one of us advocating where we are, educating, demanding, insinuating ourselves even where we are not invited.

Although this is not directly related to legislation, I read in ASCLS Today recently about canned letter templates that a laboratorian can use to write to the media whenever they see CLS portrayed in a negative light -or left out of the conversation completely.

To access the templates go to

click on Committees, then Promotion of the Profession Committee (PPC), then Templates of Letters to the Media.

It might not change the world or change our image as a profession over night, but small easy-to-do steps like this are certainly do-able by ANYONE.

Glen McDaniel July 19, 2009 6:22 PM
Atlanta GA

No disrespect to all the laboratorians out there but all the people with the higher ranking degrees and status out there should have resolved this issue long ago.  I haven't been in the profession as long as most but I noticed from day one the respect nurses get in the clinical and hospital setting compared to the lack of respect people in the lab profession get.  Shows like CSI (A Joke) have opened some eyes as to what goes on in a lab besides "drawing blood" but I guessed we'd be further along by now.  I was at the National Naval Medical Center during 9/11 processing potential anthrax specimens for 12-16hrs a day and I guess that still didn't open the eyes of policy makers back then.  I guess we should go on strike (yeah right!).

Gary July 17, 2009 11:51 PM

I agree!  Do we have a representative from our profession who is asking for a seat at the table as health care is being redesigned?  Respectfully, Linda Fahrer,MT(ASCP)

Linda Fahrer, MT(ASCP) - Staff Technologist , Rockwood Clinic July 17, 2009 12:44 PM
Spokane WA

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