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Explaining Ourselves

Published August 11, 2014 6:00 AM by Scott Warner

According to US News and World Report, the top five “best jobs” in 2014 are: software developer, computer systems analyst, dentist, nurse practitioner, and pharmacist. We make the list, too: phlebotomist is #16 and clinical laboratory technician #22. These jobs “offer a mosaic of employment opportunity, good salary, manageable work-life balance and job security,” the site reports.

We think we know more about those top jobs, too. We all use software, for example, and it can seem like a great job to create popular games. (It isn’t. Most software is hurried, cobbled together, filled with bugs, coded under extreme pressure, and barely works at all before hitting the market.)

I love that we made the list, but how do we explain ourselves? People may think they have a good idea of what a nurse does from television, but we are nonexistent in the popular culture and thus, public imagination. Explaining ourselves can be a challenge when asked, “What do you do?”

The most common answer I hear techs give is, “It’s like detective work.” This isn’t bad and more or less true. We piece together pieces of the clinical picture, but that’s just part of the story.

We handle specimens and instrumentation, which requires a level of technical competence unique within healthcare. That’s something. But the “detective” aspect is also true. More and more, we handle information as a product and commodity. We see more data than ever before, from quality data to delta checks, and we’re expected to interpret it to produce more reliable results. That’s much more than simply collecting specimens and pressing buttons.

As information technology becomes more integrated with healthcare and the data we see expands with the electronic health record, I expect we’ll become more like information analysts than bench technicians. This “applied information technology” is exciting but even more difficult to explain to a neophyte. (Or bean counter!)

But that’s just my view of our profession. I’m a geek, so I tend to see my job as information. How about you? How do you explain yourself?


posted by Scott Warner


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About this Blog

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