Volume 37 Number 2 | April 2023
Melissa E. Wyatt, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, Kentucky Society for Clinical Laboratory Science President
“I wish I had found this degree sooner!” As a clinical laboratory educator, I have heard this statement many times from students. Students must identify with the medical laboratory profession before choosing this career path. The visibility of our profession is crucial to recruit future laboratory professionals. One person or organization cannot accomplish this mission alone; we all must be ambassadors for medical laboratory science.
When students enter our medical laboratory science program, we ask them how they learned about the profession; most students say that someone told them about it. A personal conversation is still a powerful connection in a digital world full of social media. Have you personally talked to someone about the medical laboratory profession recently? It may be difficult at first, so practice a brief description of your job and the medical laboratory professional’s role in patient care. Find a way to personally connect with people and talk about the profession and career possibilities.
“A personal conversation is still a powerful connection in a digital world full of social media. Have you personally talked to someone about the medical laboratory profession recently?”
I listed below some of our MLS program’s activities in recent years to increase the profession’s visibility. I hope you can incorporate some of these ideas into your organization.
- Live-Streaming with High School Students. During COVID-19, we could not visit high schools in person, so we started performing live-streaming events with local high school science classes. We were able to demonstrate laboratory tests and explain what a medical laboratory scientist does in a whole new way. Even though we could not be with the students in person, we were able to connect with these students and increase the visibility of our profession.
- Small Group Live Chats via Zoom. We worked with our university recruitment to organize small group live chats via Zoom with prospective students. We also included current MLS students in the group. The prospective students were very interested in talking to current MLS students. The small groups allowed for some in-depth conversations about MLS and career opportunities.
- Host or Visit Local High School Allied Health and Biomedical Classes. When we could meet in person again, we started hosting and visiting high school classes. High school students in allied health and biomedical career pathways are already interested in a healthcare career, so these students are great to talk to about medical laboratory science. We try to perform an interactive activity at these events and discuss the MLS profession. We also develop a network with the teachers and have repeated visits each year.
- Incorporate Service Projects into MLS Curriculum. Along with teaching laboratory skills to MLS students, we also strive to develop them as MLS ambassadors. We have incorporated service projects into our curriculum, focusing on increasing awareness of the profession. The project can be on-campus or in the community. Projects include visiting their home high school to talk to science classes about the MLS profession, participating in recruitment events on campus to speak to prospective students, and assisting in pre-MLS laboratory classes. Through these projects, students have gained excellent communication skills. They are the future ambassadors for the profession.
- MLS T-Shirt Design. Each year, our MLS students design a T-shirt with a logo to illustrate an aspect of laboratory medicine. The students are responsible for the design, working with the printer, taking orders, and distributing the T-shirts. The T-shirts give the students a sense of group identity and increase the visibility of our profession. As the students wear the T-shirts on campus and in the community, people often ask about medical laboratory science.
These are just some ways we have increased visibility in our MLS program. I hope you can use some of these ideas. Even in this digital world with so many social media connections, try to reach out and make a personal connection. Start a conversation and explain what medical laboratory science is, what we do, and the importance of our profession in patient care. Whether you are a student, a laboratory professional, or an educator, we can all be ambassadors for medical laboratory science.
Melissa E. Wyatt is Assistant Professor, Medical Laboratory Science at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky.