Hello again everyone! Every few posts on Lablogatory I like to take a small departure from updates about my medical school experience and my Zika public health initiative. This time is more of a shameless plug: I am thrilled and honored to be considered one of ASCP’s Top 40 Under Forty for 2017!
Looking through the rest of the honorees, I can certainly say I’m in great company. Each person on that list is a prime example of the working values, lessons, and vision that ASCP recognizes in our dynamic field. So, to celebrate my and others’ place on this list, I’ve put together a few thoughts that truly reflect our hard work, talent, and potential as laboratory professionals and what that might mean for each of us. Here are what I consider the “Top 40” lessons that a career in medical laboratory science and laboratory medicine have taught me:
- The laboratory is the best melting pot –How many awesome pot-lucks have you had in your breakroom? How many words in new languages have you picked up? All that cultural exposure really contributes to a profound sense of community and humility.
- If everything is STAT, nothing is… – need I say more? We know the value of prioritizing and triaging what’s important for patients.
- You know a little about a lot of things, and sometimes a lot about a few things – To all my fellow generalists and specialists out there: how good does it feel to directly contribute to a patient’s positive outcome?
- Everyone’s got a different TAT – To turn a phrase, we’re all at various stages. Some laboratorians are just starting out and some can “smell” a tricky differential…
- Quality control protects everyone – If QC is good, instruments are good. If instruments report good values, results are good.
- Accountability is key – Owning up to failures and successes are both important!
- Record everything – This is how we protect patients and ourselves as well as improve.
- Teamwork is a necessity – It takes a village or, in this case, a full staff…
- Serotypes and Stereotypes – We’re not shy! We’re not afraid to jump in and collaborate!
- We’re not magicians, but sometimes we are – Impressing other clinicians with our ability to analyze and get results is just part of what we do.
- Nurses are our friends – Really, when you’ve got great relationships with the nursing staff you know just how that can make an enormous difference in your work.
- Doctors are our friends, too – The best doctors value the laboratory, and its staff!
- Ultimately, we’re here for our patients – That’s what it’s all about!
- We celebrate each other – How many of your labs have a ‘tech of the year’ award, or service awards? We make sure that we recognize each other’s talents.
- We share everything – Life events, stories, experiences, swapping shifts…
- Toxic techs are real, but they can be your friend too – All too real in many labs; often they’ve got lots of experience and can be a positive voice for change. Are we listening?
- What happens if everyone retires? – Staff turnover can be a challenge, but a combo of great training and communication are key.
- What happens if no one retires? Ever? – This occurs too, staff gridlock can be tough to manage and laboratory leadership is part of our role as well.
- We ALL have prior experiences – From brand new to near retirement, we’ve all had experience in healthcare; even as patients!
- Sometimes, QC just won’t come in range – That’s why relying on protocol and documentation can make all the difference.
- Sometimes, things happen even when QC was perfect – Bad days happen! Our drawing board is based on what we do best: analyzing, interpreting, and taking action.
- No one can tolerate as much as we can – How many of you have been blamed for hemolysis, or scrutinized for TAT statistics? Let’s call it “character-building experience.”
- Trust your training – It’s really your best resource.
- Taking initiative is a built-in perk – There will be times when it comes down to one lab tech on a night shift, or one pathologist who’s been paged, to take charge and make decisions.
- Watch something, do something, teach something – What better place than a clinical lab to see everything, learn it hands-on, and teach the next person?
- Never ending details – All those SOPs really make one appreciate the vast number of details that go into planning anything.
- We’re the best part of the hospital for metrics and progress – Diagnostic data comprises 70% of patient information, and 100% of laboratory performance.
- Lab week is the best – It feels great to be part of a large family of clinicians in this shared field. It’s also usually around my birthday, so that’s been a personal perk…
- Some teachers have years of experience on you – They’ve seen things you may never get the chance to!
- Some people will teach you something, even if you’re their supervisor – Everyone brings something to the table, or lab bench, or conference table, or shared microscope.
- We choose our words carefully – “These cells are suspicious and require pathology consult with further clinical correlation…” We know our scopes and practices.
- We word our choices carefully too – “This specimen was forwarded for pathology review because of our criteria…” We know we’ve got to back up our actions with evidence.
- We know office politics, just a little more intense than most people realize – Every hospital has a hierarchy, but laboratorians know we’re all on the same team.
- We’ve got an SOP for that – Literally, we have one for everything.
- We can come up with solutions with very limited information – Requisitions don’t always carry the highest level of clinically relevant guidance. (Test: Hgb A1c, Note: repeat from 1 hour ago).
- Sometimes we cannot find a solution, despite endless information – There are times when laboratory data is not enough to definitively make diagnoses, that’s just part of medicine.
- We all have the potential to be laboratory leaders – We’ll all have moments to take initiative and demonstrate our talents at one point or another.
- We are all real clinical scientists – The change to calling it “medical laboratory scientists” is one of the best changes ever. In my opinion, we are true clinical and critical scientists.
- It’s our job to promote our role and our field!
- Never stop learning!
I think the last two points need no explanation. Thank you for taking the time to read my “Top 40” Laboratory Lessons. If you have a great lesson you’ve learned, add it to the comments below! Don’t forget to check in next month for another update on my work and don’t forget to vote for ASCP’s Top Five! All the Top 40 Under Forty nominees are eligible to be in the Top Five based on your votes and comments!
Visit HERE, click on my face, and vote today!
Thanks, and see you next month!
–Constantine E. Kanakis MSc, MLS (ASCP)CM graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BS in Molecular Biology and Bioethics and then Rush University with an MS in Medical Laboratory Science. He is currently a medical student at the American University of the Caribbean and actively involved with local public health.