Are You More Than a Passive Technician?
recently saw a discussion on a Medical Laboratory page on a popular social networking
site. Someone started off a thread detailing an encounter with a nurse in which
a request was made that was so ludicrous it was funny. Others weighed in with
accounts of their personal experiences: mostly questions or requests from
nursing based on ignorance of laboratory procedures and interpretation of results.
This sort of story-telling is a favorite pastime of medical
laboratorians as we know.
made a brief comment indicating that we needed to project ourselves more as
knowledgeable professionals and less as “passive technicians” who followed
orders mindlessly and offered no opinions at all. Sadly, one person took umbrage
to my use of the term "technician" and accused me of belittling the role of MLTs such as herself.
This is despite the clear context and even the blatant hint that “technician” was
in quotes, indicating I was quoting someone else’s words.
and others on the healthcare team often refer to medical laboratorians at any
level as ”the lab” or “technicians” and suggest implicitly and, sometimes explicitly,
that as members of the ancillary staff we do not have much to offer in terms of
independent thought or knowledge. This is clearly not true and I am bothered
when we buy into this interpretation and passively (there is that term again)
stand by and let others wallow in their ignorance or persist in their
misconception of who we are.
is sad we can muster up lots of whining, sense of self-victimization,
hypersensitivity and criticism of each other while we passively let others
misjudge and undervalue us and the contribution we make to the patient care. More than our ego is at stake. When we are not fully utilized, patient care suffers as well.
of the profession at every level- phlebotomist, MLT, MLS, specialist, pathologist- are all
valuable and each has a unique body of knowledge from which they can draw and
enlighten those who do not know. I have many friends who are physicians and
they almost unanimously appreciate when I enlighten them about the proper
selection, use and interpretation of laboratory tests. They are always
surprised when I speak about our education or detail processes that explain turnaround
time, how reference intervals are derived, quality control and the like. Am I unique in that regard? I refuse
to believe that. Clinicians need and welcome our help, but we often do not give it. Instead we roll our eyes and joke among ourselves.
someone calls us “technicians” as a way of relegating us to a vague inferior
class of button pushers we do not have to accept it. Our energy should be
directed at undoing that perception and not internalizing that label. It should
certainly not be squandered on attacking those who work tirelessly to advance the
profession. That is misdirected energy.
“stupid” question or request, each term of denigration is an opportunity to
teach and to demonstrate that you are more than a “technician.”