Critical Value

(No. Not that kind of critical value; your patient’s hemoglobin is absolutely fine…)

Hello again everyone! Back from a relevant and important case-study last month, I’d like to pivot to highlighting an important annual celebration that happens every May 6-12th around the world: International Nurses’ Day.

I know, I know. This is a blog for medical laboratory professionals, what gives? We get lab week, they get nurses’ week…separate but equal? In my opinion, not exactly the best modus operandi for collaborative medicine. In fact, nursing and laboratory medicine have both had a rich, connected, and parallel history for decades and the professional intersections of their efforts is something to be celebrated!

A lot of current published literature focuses on nursing in the pre-analytical realm of specimen collection and processing. That’s totally fine, and quite important to diagnostic testing, but if you go back a few decades with me it’s clear to see we’re both frontline medical professionals—and that’s without a global viral pandemic!

Image 1. I’m sorry but the label needs to be dated and initialed at bedside—KIDDING. That happens a lot I’m sure (I would know), but nurses and medical laboratory scientists (technologists) have been counterparts for decades. The present is no different. We are two parts of a strong interdisciplinary, collaborative effort to improve healthcare for our patients. After all, we’re always #StrongerTogether. (Source: Laboratory Medicine, June 1970)

In the very first issue of Laboratory Medicine¸ one of ASCP’s main journals, an article discussed the critical communication between nursing and the laboratory. The bottom line (from 1970)? Doctors and nurses might use “stat” too much, and medical technologists are very busy folks—has anything changed? In another piece in the same journal from 1984, the topic of MLS (then MT) recognition was examined. Almost 14 years apart, this article highlighted that the lab wished for recognition, and that doctors and nurses valued their MT’s experience and knowledge, despite their work behind the scenes. Fast forward to the present, professional societies like ASCLS have established national celebrations of our hard work with Medical Laboratory Professional’s Week in April. In May, the International Council of Nurses (and our American Association of Nursing) promotes Nurses’ Week. Our super-hero themed celebration of diagnostic excellence and commitment is matched by their theme of nursing the world back to health. The World Health Assembly designated 2020 as the year of the nurse for obvious reasons. None of us would be able to thrive, survive, or work in or out of healthcare without nurses. So for this year’s Nurses’ Week, Nurses’ Day, or even the Year of the Nurse, this pathology postgraduate-trainee is happy to celebrate our clinical friends and colleagues.

Image 2. Melizza, Nataliya, Donna, and Roksana are the nurses that manage Loyola’s robust apheresis clinic service. I don’t think it would run without them. They effectively demonstrate that nursing is critical across any specialty, and patient safety and outcomes are directly related to the care they receive.

Significant parts of pathology and laboratory medicine rely heavily on nurses. In transfusion medicine, you wouldn’t be able to have any significant apheresis clinic activity without the compassion and attention of nurses. Clinical Pathologists really lean on the knowledge, skill, talent, grace, compassion, and dedication of the nurses that care for patients receiving this highly specific and specialized treatment modality. Think about how other “interventional pathology” specialties like cytopathology or hematopathology would suffer without the commitment of nurses to keep our patients safe during a fine-needle aspiration, or bone marrow collection.

I write a lot about our work in pathology and laboratory medicine, from bench to bedside, but considering our nursing colleagues:

Nurses are kind.
Nurses are brilliant.
Nurses are skilled.
Nurses work in all kinds of roles, jobs, and settings.
Whether they work in an office, clinic, or hospital unit, care for you or a loved one, close the learning gaps for a medical student or resident, champion for better outcomes for one patients or thousands or people at once; our lives are all better for it. Their work never ends, and our need for them never will.

Image 3. Mini-brag: my wife (who has secretly appeared in a few ASCP-related media as she accompanies me to meetings—and even roundtables!) is a nurse and a fantastic one. An INF Top 40 Under Forty Nursing Leader, a former community-based health clinic non-profit chief of staff, an internationally renowned lecturer on emergency and disaster mitigation strategies, and a very important Chicago region disaster response manager who’s inches from finishing her DNP in Public Health so, like, what am I even doing…?

I obviously see the value and impact of nursing every day. Doesn’t hurt that I’m surrounded by great ones at work and at home.

Happy (belated) Nurses Week!

Thanks for reading, see you next time!

Constantine E. Kanakis MD, MSc, MLS(ASCP)CM is a first-year resident physician in the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Department at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago with interests in hematopathology, transfusion medicine, bioethics, public health, and graphic medicine. He is a certified CAP inspector, holds an ASCP LMU certificate, and xxx. He was named on the 2017 ASCP Forty Under 40 list, The Pathologist magazine’s 2020 Power List and serves on ASCP’s Commission for Continuing Professional Development, Social Media Committee, and Patient Champions Advisory Board. He was featured in several online forums during the peak of the COVID pandemic discussing laboratory-related testing considerations, delivered a TEDx talk called “Unrecognizable Medicine,” and sits on the Auxiliary Board of the American Red Cross in Illinois. Dr. Kanakis is active on social media; follow him at @CEKanakisMD.

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