Volume 35 Number 6 | December 2021

Constance Stager, MT(ASCP), ASCLS Region IX Director

Constance StagerThe theme of this issue of ASCLS Today, Professional Advocacy, is one that I have found myself giving quite some thought to lately considering the pandemic and the lab’s vital role in patient testing. The pandemic has provided an opportunity for laboratorians to highlight our contributions to the medical profession. At the national level ASCLS leadership works to advocate for the medical laboratory profession through political action in both Washington, D.C., and in the individual states. Alongside this there are many opportunities for all laboratorians to become advocates within their own organizations and communities.

In this past year we have had an overwhelming number of laboratorians voicing concerns about the amount of recognition the lab receives versus what is felt is deserved. While it is true that the lab deserves more recognition, it is incumbent upon those who desire change to work to remedy the issues.

It can be uncomfortable to promote one’s own work, but I believe it is necessary. There are numerous ways that lab staff can advocate for themselves, sometimes in small but meaningful ways. I have a few specific examples that I think may illustrate my point.

Recently, a colleague of mine was unhappy that his organization failed to recognize the lab staff during Medical Laboratory Professionals Week. Considering all that the lab has gone through in the last 18 months with the pandemic, this was disheartening for both lab management and staff at his organization. The question I asked him though was, “Did you remind your organization about Lab Week and specifically ask them to recognize the lab?” His response was, “No, the Joint Commission and other organizations send out reminders, and administration should be the one to make the effort to recognize the lab.” While this may be true, administrators, just like lab staff, are very busy people, and expecting them to remember to praise the lab without any prompting is probably an unrealistic expectation.

“It can be uncomfortable to promote one’s own work, but I believe it is necessary. There are numerous ways that lab staff can advocate for themselves, sometimes in small but meaningful ways.”

Laboratory managers and staff often don’t have much experience promoting themselves, and it can feel uncomfortable to talk about your own accomplishments or those of your department. However, this is exactly what is needed. At my facility, lab management contacted administration a month prior to remind them about Lab Week and then contacted the newsletter editor to get Lab Week information published in the company newsletter. My lab staff probably don’t even know that I and my managers encouraged administration to publish the kudos to lab staff, but it was a moral boost to staff to know that their contributions were acknowledged, and they received numerous well wishes from other hospital staff.

There are many other opportunities for lab management and staff to promote the lab as well. For instance, during daily huddles, let your administration know that your staff is putting in overtime and had record testing volumes with limited staff. Or put your staff members in for employee of the year or other recognition programs.

Finally, if there are quality awards offered by statewide organizations, taking time to nominate your organization or even colleagues from other facilities can be quite rewarding. Here in Alaska, several labs nominated one of our colleagues who had played a major role in procuring testing equipment and supplies for sites throughout the state of Alaska. This individual and his lab won the award and were featured in the statewide publication and honored at an award ceremony. I also submitted my own lab staff for one of the awards, and although we did not win, we were still recognized for our achievements.

Constance Stager is the Director of Laboratory Services for Southeast Alaska Regional Health consortium in Southeast Alaska.