Choose Your Demographics, or it Will be Chosen For You
We have all heard about advertising types targeting a product towards a certain "demographic." They will almost exclude everyone else knowing that for example a certain age group or ethnic group will be the bulk of their consumer market. Anyone outside of the targeted group is simply "gravy."
In the current frenzied political season as Republican candidates vie for the spoils of caucuses and primaries, the pundits all describe the demographic in each area and suggest strategies for getting the most vote. The candidates will also craft messages for a particular group-even if it contradicts something they said in the very last state.
The larger point, I guess, is that we all make assumptions about certain groups, interact with them in a certain way and -even more importantly- expect them to react or behave a certain way.
The same logic applies to our profession. Most of the customers we serve think about MLS in a very rigid specific way. And, yes, some of it is stereotypical: specimens will get lost, lab results will be late. Many physicians and nurses would be shocked to know we are scientists with more education than many others on the healthcare team. Most are not even aware of our preferred moniker: we are "the lab," or "lab technicians."
I have made it my mission to educate those of my family and friends who are physicians or nurses. In every lab that I have worked I try to interact with physicians; sometimes commenting on results or making a suggestion "out of the ordinary." The frustrating thing is that I am then perceived as "the exceptional one, not like the others."
That back-handed compliment does not particularly please me, because it does not change stereotypes of or profession. I do find, however, that many people are open to education, they love to be helped, and they appreciate when you point out an anomaly. If you act like an equal on the team, they will often respond to you in kind.
You will be stereotyped anyway; you will be seen as merely "the lab" who mindlessly churns out numbers that the really intelligent provider uses to make valuable decisions.
I urge you to define your demographic. Interact. Educate. Speak up. At first you will be seen as "exceptional." I believe that if enough of us do this often enough, we will ALL be seen as exceptional; and we truly are.