Have you heard the expression “there’s no such thing as bad Press?” This saying makes the assumption that getting your name out there is the important thing, whether it’s something good you did or something bad you did that put you forward. I think there’s some truth to this saying because people’s memory tends to be short. They’ll remember a name but not necessarily a context for that name. This probably explains why crooked politicians, even when it’s known that they’re crooked, continue to be elected.
Thinking about this saying from a lab perspective, it means that even when a mistake is made, you may be able to capitalize on it to make contacts outside the lab, to effectively put your name out there. Even if it is a significant mistake, or is a situation you had no control over, using it as an opportunity to introduce lab personnel and lab concepts to the greater medical community is a good thing. Okay, it may take them a bit to forget the bad incident, but they will remember you and now have a lab contact for other lab-related issues.
I was considering this in the context of notifying physicians of a reagent recall, on a reagent we have been using for about 3 months. Luckily, I have a good rapport with the majority of the physicians involved, but even when fielding negative phone calls from those who do not know me, I used this event as an opportunity, an introduction and an offer of lab help on any other issues they may be having.
As a field, the laboratory tends not to blow its own horn very much outside of lab and pathology. Because that’s true, we need to learn to grab opportunities when they arise, even if they arise from less than ideal situations. It’s also an opportunity to suggest that a laboratory professional sitting on various committees may prevent future issues. Being this “forward” sometimes places people firmly outside their comfort zone, but in this day and age of decreasing test reimbursement, and decreasing money in the medical and laboratory fields overall, being an integral part of the healthcare team is more important than ever.
So, the next time you have to notify other healthcare professionals that test results that were reported may be less than accurate, try considering it as an opportunity to create new contacts and build cross-medical-field relationships. Quickly acting on every opportunity to become a well-recognized and needed part of healthcare is the best way to keep our profession alive and flourishing.
-Patti Jones PhD, DABCC, FACB, is the Clinical Director of the Chemistry and Metabolic Disease Laboratories at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, TX and a Professor of Pathology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.