Volume 37 Number 2 | April 2023
Jolene Le, MLS(ASCP), ASCLS Developing Professionals Forum Councilor
Ivann Martinez, PhD, MLS(ASCP), ASCLS Developing Professionals Forum
It was my primary care physician that helped me understand the true problem with visibility in the field of clinical laboratory science. I visited my primary care physician to get a physical as a requirement for my entry into a medical laboratory science program. During the visit, my doctor asked me the purpose of this procedure, but when I told him that I was entering a program to become a medical laboratory scientist, he revealed that he doesn’t know what medical laboratory scientists are and their role in the medical field and healthcare system. He has been practicing for over 30 years, so this was an interesting revelation, which shows the extent of our problem with visibility in the field.
It could be argued that our lack of visibility has hurt the profession, resulting in a lack of recognition and appreciation, even in the very hospitals in which we work, and which has made it difficult to attract strong talent to enter the profession. The lack of recognition also makes it more difficult to advocate for better wages compared to our other counterparts in healthcare, such as nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, and various forms of medical therapists. Is there any way we can change this to shed a spotlight on our field to improve the current direction of the profession? As developing professionals, what can we do to advance our field and improve our visibility within healthcare?
“Developing professionals in the field of clinical laboratory science are in a unique position of improving visibility of the field because we are the current generation of professionals that are training to enter the field and will be the future professionals that will lead in the field.”
Developing professionals in the field of clinical laboratory science are in a unique position of improving visibility of the field because we are the current generation of professionals that are training to enter the field and will be the future professionals that will lead in the field. Let us examine some possible ways that we can improve the visibility of this career. During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our field was propelled to a greater view in the eyes of the public due to the extensive need for testing. This allowed the profession to be seen as an essential component of healthcare by the public and gain some recognition of the importance of our work to the administrators of the hospitals. This is a good starting point that we must use to our advantage to increase our visibility and encourage more students to pursue clinical laboratory science as a strong and thriving career.
One way we can encourage more students to pursue the profession is by partnering with local community colleges to build a pathway by creating a bridge program that will help prepare students to take classes that will allow them to enroll in clinical laboratory science programs. These programs should have a list of classes that they will need to finish in two years, and these programs should also allow students to have an increased chance of entering four-year universities that have a clinical laboratory science program. This will funnel strong and highly capable students into programs to ensure retention and successful completion of clinical laboratory science programs. Once students enter the program, they should be encouraged to join professional societies, such as ASCLS and ASCP. This is important because in these professional societies, students will be able to network and find themselves excellent mentors who will help them navigate through the field successfully and find jobs after graduation or even learn about other opportunities that may be available to them in the future.
Another way we can encourage more students to pursue this career is by targeted advertising at a younger age, at the middle school and high school level. Developing and ascending professionals can help introduce younger students to this career by partnering with local high school and middle school science teachers to allow younger students a glimpse into our field. They can perform simple demonstrations by using kits to determine a person’s blood type. There are many commercially available blood typing kits that can be used as a workshop to introduce students to our field. Developing and ascending professionals can serve as guest lecturers and talk about the importance of determining blood type for transfusions and the effects of improper blood typing. These simple partnerships can excite students about the fun world of clinical laboratory science.
Lastly, developing and ascending professionals can also help increase our visibility in the healthcare field by communicating with senior management about being more involved with patient care whenever it is appropriate. One possible area that this can be done is in point-of-care testing. Medical laboratory professionals working in this area can help explain to patients about the different tests we are running and how it can aid their healthcare team, including doctors and nurses, to better understand the pathology of the patient. Another area that medical laboratory professionals can engage the public is through COVID-19 testing centers. We can use this opportunity to educate the public about the test that is being used to help determine if they are currently exposed or have been exposed to COVID-19. We can use these opportunities to educate patients about the importance of accurate testing to collect data and create awareness of the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in their area. We can also use this opportunity to explain to the public the importance of being tested to help protect our community and help manage the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
Visibility has been an ongoing problem in the profession. The lack of visibility has affected our efforts to encourage individuals to view clinical laboratory science as a viable career option in healthcare. It has been so bad that even other members of the healthcare community do not understand the role we play. By creating local partnerships in middle school and high schools, we can introduce students to this career and our importance in healthcare. Creating programs that bridge students from community college will provide us with continuous sources of students who are more prepared and will allow us to retain more students in the clinical laboratory science programs. And lastly, encouraging students to join professional societies will allow students to network with other professionals in the field and find mentors who can help guide them through their career. By working together, we can shed a spotlight on this career and usher in the next generation of medical laboratory professionals.
Jolene Le is a Medical Technologist at John McClellan Memorial Veterans’ Hospital and University of Arkansas for Medical School Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Ivann Martinez is a Clinical Laboratory Scientist II (Generalist) at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and University of Arkansas for Medical School Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas.