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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Do We Practice What We Preach? Part 2.

Published February 21, 2016 4:00 PM by Glen McDaniel

Clinical laboratorians sometimes complain, “Well, they didn’t ask the lab!”  As someone who has held administrative positions outside the laboratory, I noticed very quickly that the lab was not present at the table for many decisions.  Having come from the lab, I was not totally surprised.

What really shocked me, however,  was the claim from other stakeholders that the lab seemed disinterested and did not volunteer even when asked.  I was able to validate that reality when I personally asked the lab for input, asked lab representatives to join hospital-wide teams, to offer suggestions and to weigh in on decisions affecting them.  The response was often lukewarm at best.

The other responsibility of wanting to be taken seriously and to make decisions regarding our practice is that we have to be believable and put our money where our mouth is. 

If we are to be credible experts, then we must be certified and maintain current competency through continuing education.  It is irresponsible to support the contention that passing one examination 15 or 20 years ago affords anyone current competence. The vast amount of recently discovered knowledge and technological advances require much more currency than that. Ongoing education is essential to offer yourself up as an expert with any degree of confidence and credibility.  

Anything less is dishonest and unfair to those we serve. Another aspect of being the expert is being willing to put your foot down and call the shots when necessary in the interest of patient care, safety or ethics. When clinical lab services are being inappropriately used or prudent practices are not being followed, you should be willing to audit, document,  educate-and even report- rather than simply grumble or concede.

 

Another area of dissension between the laboratory and other departments, as well as among laboratorians is that we do not get the praise or recognition we deserve. Are you one of those individuals guilty of doing just the bare minimum required to get by, or do you go the extra mile? Health care workers, including laboratorians, are notorious for cannibalizing each other; often with biting criticism or setting up a hostile work environment.

Those of us who manage others should be aware of the effect of the feedback we give subordinates. Managers I speak with are often surprised that their staff feels unappreciated and demoralized and blame their managers for these feelings. When I speak with the staff, they complain of getting mixed messages, inequitable treatment, harsh criticism, negative feedback and little support.  Sometimes they feel they were never prepared for they job they are expected to perform-efficiently and error-free.

Equally surprising is how often such managers naively think the culture can be turned around and perceptions reversed simply by the odd pep talk or (mandatory) viewing of a trendy video with crashing waves, inspirational words, music and maybe a dove or two! Again, what a “disconnect.” This is schizophrenia, not inspiration; insincerity, not leadership.

We must do what we say we do, we must do the work it takes to be knowledgeable professionals, we must step out of the lab and inter-act with others, we must treat our colleagues with the respect we expect-and they deserve. 

Remember, habitual actions always speak louder than mere words.

 

 

2 comments

very good points. I find that talk is cheap. So it's easy to brag or complain without action. What really counts is action. I no longer wait for my pathologist or manager to represent me and the lab.

I will not go over their head but I will provide information or education to nurses and doctors as needed. It makes me feel better, I am respected and the clinical staff is grateful. I also find we get better specimens with fewer collection errors.

The staff is very willing to pick up the phone and ask me questions and I am more than willing to answer. They keep me on my toes. I read more and keep up to date on scientific issues. I will check with our reference lab or the CDC for additional information if needed to confidently answer a query.  Clinical staff on the floors (and in the ER) are happy and the lab is happy. It is a win/win for everyone.

Jacob , MLS March 7, 2016 8:03 PM
Atlanta GA

very good points. I find that talk is cheap. So it's easy to brag or complain without action. What really counts is action. I no longer wait for my pathologist or manager to represent me and the lab.

I will not go over their head but I will provide information or education to nurses and doctors as needed. It makes me feel better, I am respected and the clinical staff is grateful. I also find we get better specimens with fewer collection errors.

The staff is very willing to pick up the phone and ask me questions and I am more than willing to answer. They keep me on my toes. I read more and keep up to date on scientific issues. I will check with our reference lab or the CDC for additional information if needed to confidently answer a query.  Clinical staff on the floors (and in the ER) are happy and the lab is happy. It is a win/win for everyone.

Jacob , MLS March 7, 2016 8:03 PM
Atlanta GA

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