Volume 36 Number 2 | April 2022

Tangible, Doable Steps to Make a Difference

Judy Garic, MT(ASCP)SC, LSCLS Government Affairs Committee Co-Chair

Judy GaricI am a medical technologist with over 30 years of experience, and I was unaware that the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) existed, including its local chapter, the Louisiana Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (LSCLS). Not any longer. ASCLS and its local chapters represent us, our profession, and its future. ASCLS is us. I understand the feeling of “getting nothing for my money” mentality, but if the organization gets stronger by increasing the membership, it’s influence on those in charge becomes stronger.

I was a bench med tech for approximately 20 years when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina shifted the landscape (literally) and created opportunities for me that did not exist before the storm. With a desire to lead people and the opportunity, I became a supervisor, then manager, then ultimately a lab director.

Along this journey I was frequently asked how I felt about my profession. I always responded that it was the best career for me, and I absolutely loved being a med tech. I felt the sadness and frustration, as many others did, when we were referred to as “nurses” and no one understood our work. I would try to explain what we did but usually gave up. But the pride I felt in my work never wavered, and I tried to share that feeling with my family, coworkers, and staff.

One year into the COVID pandemic and its complications, stresses, and people and material shortages, a tipping point occurred in my career. The passion to lead was diminishing, and I chose to leave my position as lab director and seek to help others who I believed can benefit from my experience and expertise. My new organization introduced me to ASCLS and LSCLS. I made a commitment to become involved and make a difference in our profession. I accepted the position of co-chair of the LSCLS Governmental Affairs Committee and immediately began contributing to the fight to freeze the PAMA cuts for lab tests. The cuts were to go into effect January 1, 2022, but through the efforts of ASCLS, Congress put a hold on these cuts until January 2023. This was exciting news that was celebrated by everyone that worked so hard on this project. It was the first tangible evidence that I could contribute to make a difference for the profession as a whole.

You can make a difference, too! Become an advocate for our profession. Even a little time, a little effort, can make a big and positive impact. So, what now? This is where most articles end, and I would be left feeling motivated but no idea what exactly to do. So, this article takes a different approach—some tangible, doable steps on how to make a difference. Many lab professionals, including yours truly, are introverts and do not seek the spotlight. There are still ways to make a difference. Our profession needs an influx of new people, whether from high school, community/technical colleges, or four-year degree universities. We need to get the information to these students and to the public to increase our visibility. Here are some options for you:

  1. JOIN ASCLS. With numbers come power and influence. Commit to doing one action this year to better our profession and be determined to share this commitment with your coworkers. The more members, the more power for our organization, and the bigger impact we can have.
  2. Write an opinion piece for your local paper—see my example.
  3. Talk to your hospital/clinic marketing department about taking out a full-page ad in the local paper promoting the work your lab has done during the pandemic.
  4. Reach out through email/phone calls to your local morning television programs to suggest a short promotion of some local heroes in the lab. Be active in the content of this promotion. A lot of early morning shows like to do segments about local people.
  5. Share a video about our profession on any social media platform. There are many such videos on various platforms that can be shared. Here is a video I participated in when I was lab director. You can find more videos to share on the ASCLS YouTube channel.
  6. Talk to the local high school guidance counselors/career directors or community/technical institutes about the options of employment in laboratories. I am creating a trifold brochure that I can email/mail to you if you are interested in that option. Reach out to them, explain what you are doing and see if they would be willing to let you stop by with brochures. This can offer an option to many people who have no idea about laboratory work.

Please consider getting involved. Our profession needs you.

Judy Garic is a Compliance Specialist at Pathology Resource Network in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Sample Opinion Piece for Local Newspaper

Many opinion pieces represent professions that bemoan what the pandemic has done to their workforce, their psyche, and the inconvenience of their life. These other professions demand bonuses, hazard pay, and just extra pay for what they have endured to continue to do their jobs during this time. A large number of them have to work from home, or some have stopped working to ride out the pandemic at home. Businesses have closed due to lack of workers.

For the profession of medical laboratory professionals, which is composed of phlebotomists, lab assistants, medical lab technicians, and clinical laboratory scientists, working from home has not been an option. We must show up every day to work under stressful conditions to assist your physician in understanding your medical condition. There is no option to “close,” and because we are so short staffed, we carry on. The laboratory field is exhausted, depleted, and ignored. Many companies have offered discounts or incentives for frontline workers, but incredibly many laboratory workers have been left out of these programs because the public does not know we exist.

I want to let everyone know of this profession and know the sacrifices the laboratorians are making daily to take care of their patients. We are forced to work with fewer workers and even far fewer supplies due to the pandemic and supply chain issues.

Please remember the next time you have any type of laboratory test ordered and processed that there is a medical laboratory professional performing that test, and they deserve recognition as much as the other frontline workers.