Suzanne Campbell, PhD, MLS(ASCP)CM
During the ASCLS Board of Director’s Long Range Planning Day in March 2016, a unique critical objective for the organization was developed. As the foundation of our new strategic map, ASCLS will “actively engage and prepare medical laboratory professionals to meet the demands of the evolving healthcare environment.”
When I began my professional career as a medical laboratory scientist 30 years ago, HIV was the new infective agent. Some of my colleagues left the profession for fear of contracting the virus. We donned our personal protective equipment (PPE) only when there was a blood-borne pathogens orange sticker placed on the patient specimens. Some of my colleagues mouth pipetted. We performed many manual procedures and standard curves and used biochemical tests in individual test tubes for bacterial identification. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) was performed by the Kirby-Bauer method. Levey-Jennings charts were completed by hand. Who knew what changes our laboratory environment would experience in three decades? Now, no specimen is handled without the appropriate PPE. Treatment regimens for HIV and hepatitis are controlling and even eradicating the viruses. Standard curves and quality control charts are now computerized. Matrix assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) provides microorganism identification. Microbiology automated systems provide a multi-drug AST report. What new technologies will we see in the next 30 years?
While it is difficult to peer into the crystal ball to forecast aspects of our changing healthcare environment, one thing is evident - our profession will continue to change due to the incorporation of new technology and external challenges. It is vital that we are knowledgeable of these technologies and challenges as well as being an active member of our organization. By being a member of ASCLS, technical education and awareness of the external challenges are provided to you via the organization website, web-conferencing, social media and member email blasts.
As medical laboratory professionals, not all of us are employed in a licensure state that requires continuing education. However, one aspect of being a professional is to remain knowledgeable and skilled in new technologies. Do you complete continuing education in your technical area of expertise? Are you aware of and incorporate the patient safety competencies as outlined by the Institute of Medicine? Do you maintain your certification maintenance even though you aren’t required to do so? We must be life-long learners and while doing so we must be agile enough to meet the needs of the changing healthcare environment.
One of the most visible external challenges has been the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid System (CMS) ruling that indicates a degree in nursing is equivalent to a degree in biological science; thus enabling a registered nurse to perform moderate and high complexity testing as well as to act as a director of a CLIA moderate complexity laboratory without any additional training. Did you communicate to your congressional spokesperson by voicing opposition to this ruling? Did you sign the petition asking CMS to rescind this decision? Did you share the social media posts or forward the email to your MLS co-workers and other members of the healthcare team? If we don’t take action in educating others about our profession and our role in providing quality patient care, who will? We have a collective responsibility to be an active member of our profession and our professional organization.
In his book, Leading with the Heart, Duke University men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski describes his concept of the members of his team like the fingers of a hand.1 As a leader, his goal is to, “create a dominant team where all five fingers fit together into a powerful fist.” The analogy of the fist identifies five fingers (qualities) of a great team. Those qualities are: communication, trust, collective responsibility, caring and pride. Communication is key to educating the general public and members of the healthcare team about who we are and what we do. Do you take every opportunity to explain that we are not nurses? Do you share with others the amount of formal education that is required to be a laboratory professional? Do you explain to your friends and family members that we save lives daily? Do you encourage your co-workers to become members of ASCLS so one united voice is heard? ASLCS is One Voice, One Vision.
Trust among the members of the team is vital to the success of the team. Members of the ASCLS team trust that appointed and elected officials will support the vision and mission of the organization. Those same officials trust that all members will become actively engaged in the organization. The level of member participation will vary but involvement at the state, regional or national level is necessary for a grassroots organization. The trust that members will advocate on behalf of issues surrounding our profession is ever present.
As medical laboratory professionals, we have a collective responsibility to promote our profession, to demonstrate professionalism by becoming a member of our peer professional organization – ASCLS, and to ensure quality patient care. Do you promote medical laboratory science at civic organization presentations? Do you describe your profession at your local school career day? Do you offer tours of the laboratory to your healthcare team members? These are just a few activities to promote our profession. Are you involved at the state, regional or national level on a committee or task force? Do you share the excitement of what you do as an active member of ASCLS?
When discussing the benefits of belonging to ASCLS, the concept of being a professional family is at the forefront. We truly care for each other. How many of you get excited about seeing your professional family at state, regional and the national meetings? How many of your social media contacts are members of your professional family? The majority of my Facebook friends are professional colleagues. I send them birthday greetings, say a prayer for them when they lose a loved one, and celebrate with them when they get married, welcome a new baby, and note an anniversary. How many other professional organizations can boast that level of caring among its members?
The last finger of the fist is pride. We demonstrate pride in our work as laboratory professionals every day and for every patient we serve. Ensure that you are committed to the highest quality of work and be proud of your knowledge and skills. Be proud of how hard you worked to earn your degree. Be proud of your volunteer role as a member of ASCLS.
I encourage you to be an actively engaged medical laboratory professional and to be a vital member of the fist as we move ASCLS forward to One Voice, One Vision.
1. Krzyzewski, M. (2000). Leading with the heart. Grand Central Publishing: New York.