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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

What Message are You Sending?

Published June 21, 2014 3:33 PM by Glen McDaniel

In business school my marketing professor was fond of saying, “Marketing is everything.” It was tempting to see this view as the opinion of an overzealous marketer who was trying to convince students of the need to create complex and obtuse business/marketing plans.  But as I continued the course, and long after graduation I realized that to a degree he was right. Marketing is used in several aspects of our lives.


Look at the news: some politician with whom we disagree or who appears to be unpopular sweeps the race with a landslide victory.  Companies create a brand that we instantly recognize through a slogan or even a diagram (think of the Golden Arches or the logo of an apple with a bite taken out of it). Celebrities who do something obnoxious or spout off in a politically incorrect way often hire high-priced fixers to rehabilitate their image. That is all marketing. Marketing can be used for or against your cause and is often based on the strength of the marketing campaign rather than on any objective measure of accuracy or reality.


What does this have to do with medical laboratory science? Well, I think as a profession we too often pitch and perpetuate a negative marketing campaign against ourselves.  When an “old-timer” tells an enthusiastic new graduate or intern how horrible this profession is, that’s marketing. If someone who has been around for years states that, given a choice, they would have chosen another profession, advises the graduate to pursue another vocation and keeps up a mantra of how burnt out they are, what effect do you think that is having both on the youngster and on other’s perception of our profession?


Very often outside the lab, administrators and other members of the healthcare team refer to us in inaccurate ways. They might call us “technicians,” mischaracterize the work we do, minimize our value or even re-state some negative association. We do not have to agree with them; but if we let it slide, we are engaging in a negative marketing campaign against ourselves.


Many observers think everyone in a white coat is a “lab technician” with equal expertise and scope of practice, the lab is always losing specimens, every delay in the ED is due to waiting for lab results, and doctors send specimens to a black hole where machines automatically regurgitate results-with no input from a thinking human being. How many times have we heard this line of thinking and sat silently by while it is repeated ad nauseum?


Professionals in healthcare are called by their names: nurses, doctors, physical therapists, pharmacists. But we are generically “the lab”, a room in the basement. Until recently our week in April was called “Lab Week” with no mention of the professionals who actually practice the profession. I never use the misleading term, Lab Week, for that very reason.


When someone talks about a great hospital experience in my presence or on my Facebook page and thanks all the doctors and nurses, I jokingly say, "Thank all the medical laboratory scientists providing the information used to diagnose and treat the patient. And, thanks to the doctors, nurses and others as well.” I am only partially joking when I reframe the statement; I am practicing deliberate marketing that makes people think a little.


Sometimes my smart-alecky comment elicits dead silence, sometimes a chuckle, but very often it starts a conversation where I can educate-and yes, market, our profession. We are all marketers, broadcasting a message. Choose your message wisely.


They always say we tell people how to treat us. I have worked in other countries where the pay is not as good or the opportunities are not a sgreat but doctors etreated me more like an equal.

I have worked with doctors who discussed patient care and what they were thinking a swell a show my test results made the diagnosis. I wa snever shy in speaking up or in explaining my results.

In this country it seems techs prefer to stay behind the scenes and complain. We should not be shy to speak up or ashamed of what we know.

I think what Mr McDaniel writes is very true. We send a timid message not very knowledgeable and not willing to help and that is exactly how we get treated. That is what I know from experience.

Carlos V. June 25, 2014 11:29 AM
McAllen TX

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