The Unsung Heroes

I have been very pleased to see our professional societies, such as ASCP, become truly active and engaged in bringing attention to the field of pathology, reminding our clinical colleagues that we are in no way the “Doctors-of-the-Lesser-God.” We certainly represent a valuable part of the healthcare team even if our care is provided in a more indirect than direct fashion.

Indeed, I applaud this effort, however, there seems to me to be another missing element that we pathologists, not just our professional society, should embrace. I would hope that we look to expand this to acknowledge the significant role our laboratory staff plays each day on behalf of patient care. The laboratory staff, whether certified MTs, MLTs, phlebotomists, or administrative personnel are the unsung heroes, often forgotten or neglected and without recognition for their much-needed skills and responsibilities. Our laboratory staff represents the legs upon which we stand.

Sadly enough, in my many years in private practice and subsequent consulting, it is apparent to me that pathologists often have very limited interaction with the staff outside of the Histology/Surgical Pathology suite. This is unfortunate as it limits us both professionally and personally. Some of my favorite memories and shining moments from my practice were those that involved getting to know and being a part of the lab team. There is nothing more rewarding than feeling you have learned and participated alongside these co-workers! And there is nothing sadder to me than hearing laboratory staff members say that they have not laid eyes upon a pathologist in weeks or see their physicians only if they seek them out.

Pathologists should be actively interacting with staff in all areas of the laboratory, whether Surgical or Clinical, fostering good relationships and also acting as ambassadors for these staff and their services. We should encourage our clinical colleagues to understand the importance of this group and utilize their expertise as part of the medical team. This helps us all to grow and learn via sometimes differing perspectives which work together to bring quality patient care.

So, while we are utilizing our professional society to grow our own outreach and highlight the important role of pathologists, let us not forget to include our laboratory staff members and what they bring to the table. Make every day the day to support one another and put our cumulative best efforts to quality safe laboratory practice and patient care.

Burns

-Dr. Burns was a private practice pathologist, and Medical Director for the Jewish Hospital Healthcare System in Louisville, KY. for 20 years. She has practiced both surgical and clinical pathology and has been an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Louisville. She is currently available for consulting in Patient Blood Management and Transfusion Medicine. You can reach her at cburnspbm@gmail.com.

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