Volume 36 Number 2 | April 2022

Kevin McGuire, MHPTT, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Virtual Learning Steering Committee, ASCLS-Nebraska Awards Chair

Kevin McGuireFabienne Frederickson once said, “The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.” Determining what you are passionate about is not always easy. A career in healthcare should be a calling to make a difference in patient’s lives. It is a commitment to deliver quality care and results to everyone that we encounter. For laboratory professionals, the challenge is helping individuals spark their interest in the field of medical laboratory science.

For many people, they have a passion to help others, but they do not know that a career as a laboratory professional is even an option. If you ask elementary school students what they want to be when they grow up, you will probably hear responses that include firefighters, police officers, nurses, and doctors. Promoting the laboratory profession helps educate the public on the work we do and has the potential of helping a future laboratory professional realize their calling. With the personnel shortage in laboratories everywhere, everyone in the profession needs to provide visibility of what we do.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new opportunity to showcase the laboratory profession. As a medical laboratory science educator, I am constantly thinking of ways to spark interest in the laboratory. I enjoy presenting to elementary school, middle school, high school, and college students about the work that laboratory professionals do. The in-class presentations, career fairs, science festivals, and job shadowing opportunities were no longer available as schools were going remote and activities were canceled because of the pandemic. I had to take a step back and think about how to reach these students.

I contacted many teachers and counselors to see if I could do a presentation via web conferencing. Due to the challenges of remote education and the delivery of course content, live sessions were difficult to schedule. I then offered to record some videos and provide some previously recorded videos that could be shown later or posted online for students to view at their pleasure. The feedback to this idea was very positive. I made sure each video was less than five minutes and highlighted the profession and the laboratory’s role in the pandemic. Teachers commented how the students enjoyed seeing case studies showcasing the laboratory’s role and learning about the differences between rapid antigen and real time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.

Another way to promote the profession is through social media. Laboratory leaders are publishing articles and giving interviews regarding the work done during the pandemic. Sharing this information on social media has the potential to spark interest in someone who may enjoy this work. Telling people what you do and the difference you make in patients’ lives is important.

Professional advocacy does not have to be complicated. The need for qualified laboratory professionals is immense, and the laboratory deserves recognition for the work done. If you are uncomfortable speaking in front of a group or picking up the phone to call a teacher, advisor, or administrator, there are other things that you can do. You can send an email or post on social media highlighting the work you do. People really connect to real life examples that demonstrate how or why the laboratory played a role in saving a patient’s life.

Many schools are incorporating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) into their curriculum and would appreciate a laboratory professional to speak to the class or help at an event like a career fair or science fair. Many high schools have medical clubs and health academies where healthcare professionals can come in and do an activity with students. Laboratory tours are another way to showcase the profession. Helping someone realize their calling is a feeling that you will always treasure.

Kevin McGuire is Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

“People really connect to real life examples that demonstrate how or why the laboratory played a role in saving a patient’s life.”

Resources to Recruit Future Medical Laboratory Professionals