It's OK to Say You Don't Know
I wish I
knew everything, but I don't. On second thought: it would be pretty boring to
have every fact at my finger tips and I never have to learn, to ask, research
or dig for information. In any event, has someone ever asked you a
question and you hesitated before admitting that you don't know the answer?
am the king of trivia, so I have a collection of disjointed facts in my head. I
am the kind of friend to call as your lifeline if you are stuck on "Who
wants to be a millionaire?" I am not cocky, because I honestly don't
even know how and when I stockpiled all that (largely useless) random pieces of
family knows that I am a medical laboratory scientist (not a doctor, pharmacist
or nurse) they also turn to me a lot for medical information and advice. I
happen to know a little about a lot of things, but I am certainly no substitute
for a visit to your physician.
I have long espoused
the philosophy that as medical lab scientists we have a unique body of
knowledge and are the experts on MLS. I strongly support speaking out and
provided current and credible information to physicians, nurses and patients.
But in order to provide such a service credibly, honestly and safely, we have
to make sure we are truly knowledgeable and accurate.
I was in a
medical office recently and overheard a physician explain to a medical
assistant that it doesn't matter how long urine is centrifuged for a
microscopic examination, but "Most people don't spin long enough, I like
mine spun hard for 10 minutes to make sure everything settles."
heard a diabetes educator give blatantly incorrect information to patients
about lipids and hemoglobin A1C. When I am in the presence of healthcare
professionals who do not know my background, I am amazed at not just how they
downplay and "diss" our profession, but how they mischaracterize
important aspects like specimen collection, storage, patient preparation and
interpretation of test results.
We all have
stories about the person in the laboratory who will always give an answer to a
caller, instead of referring them to an individual who is more appropriate or
knowledgeable. Are your phlebotomists and customer service reps trained to say,
"I will let you speak to a MLS about this" or "I am sorry I am
not sure, but I will find out and call you back."
There is no
shame in not knowing. We hurt our credibility and put patients at risk if we
choose to give answers because we want to appear to "know it all."
is a lot of information we can offer; we absolutely should be more aggressive
in giving advice and interpretations; we should wear the mantle of
"expert" more confidently and proudly. But part of being a true
professional who offers real value to those he serves is to know when-and not
be afraid - to say, "I don't know."