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Stepwise Success

It’s Lab Week

Published April 21, 2014 6:15 AM by Scott Warner

The ASCLS web site says this about Medical Laboratory Professionals Week: “As team members of one of the largest industries in the United States, the dedicated efforts of laboratory professionals often go unnoticed by the general public, as well as by the very institutions employing their services.”

Amazing. But true.

I’ll admit that I have a sketchy notion of what imaging, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, dietary, social services, discharge planning, risk management, and departments other than nursing performs day to day. But these professionals are often more visible than the laboratory. We live and work in a box that spits out results. I suspect the above knows far less about us than the reverse.

A few years ago at a meeting there was discussion about using non-clinical departments to “shadow” patient care. One of the nurses said, “We can use the lab!” Apparently, we’re just button pushers and vampires. We often aren’t seen as clinical.

Lab week is a chance to highlight our efforts, educate our colleagues, and hopefully change perceptions of what we do. Especially in small hospital labs where the entire staff are generalists, the number of clinical judgments made day after day, week after week, month after month without serious error is astonishing.

Our business is separating the normal from the abnormal, finding unexpected values, and putting it all in the hands of those making treatment decisions. A physician may suspect what a result is, but the only way to actually know is to run the test. Doctors and nurses have no choice other than to rely on laboratory methods that they know next to nothing about. That’s also astonishing when you think about it.

We should celebrate lab week -- anyone up for a giant sub? -- but also use it as a springboard to change perceptions of our profession. While we have everyone’s attention, talk about what we really do. I think they’ll be impressed, don’t you?

NEXT: Are Mistakes Systemic?

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About this Blog


    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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