Volume 36 Number 2 | April 2022

Cara Bushmaker, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS-Montana Newsletter/Social Media Editor

Invisibility. Did we do it to ourselves? Was labeling laboratorians as introverts a valid excuse? Who cares? Maybe we did, maybe we didn’t, maybe you do, maybe you don’t, but what are we doing about it now? Visibility is in the hands of each of us. You don’t have to be a supervisor, or work the day shift, or be out-going, or be a millennial, or even be on social media. Visibility is in the hands of all of us representing the profession of clinical laboratory science.

In the age where representation of people in every shape and size is talked about and prioritized, why are we not prioritizing our own profession just as passionately? We all share the knowledge of our expertise, but if we don’t share it outside of our own laboratory circles in a way that resonates with people, how can we expect others to notice us? Yes, our leaders and our administrators and our fellow providers and healthcare workers should recognize the role we play, but why are we waiting for them to tell people? That mindset holds us back.

Explaining our role is not in the job description, but it should be. We should be teaching that in school, reviewing it with staff, and creating that mindset from the ground up. I think of it like bedside manner—we need to teach our “lab-side manner.” Our way of communicating in lay terms our role, our quick pitch, and how we care for our patients—the lab’s side of the story.

Patient experience isn’t really in the nature of our profession, and certainly touting our expertise is not something we require, but we could be more open. Open to share what we do and be in charge of our patient care narrative. We can all find a new and unique way to share what we do in our own style in a way that our patients, friends, and relatives can relate to. Here’s how I try to accomplish that.

  1. The good ole’ standby—SOCIAL MEDIA! I am the editor for ASCLS-MT’s Montana Laboratory Newsletter and its Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. If I wasn’t doing that, I’d be helping contribute content and interacting with posts. Sending in my cool lab pics and Trichomonas videos. ;) I even presented that work at our state meeting.
  2. I partner with my equally supportive and nerdy husband and his job in a Biosafety Level 4 research facility. We collaborate on things like recruiting speakers at ASCLS meetings, laboratory safety advice for our hospital, and most recently on a clinical COVID research project.
  3. Thanks to COVID, I’ve joined multiple city committees and projects throughout the pandemic to help our community navigate COVID testing, safety, and public health issues in our rural community. This led to newspaper ads/interviews, radio interviews, hospital blood drives, and letters to our legislators.
  4. I take photos of cool things or articles and email them to our entire laboratory whenever I can.
  5. I watch for advocacy issues and share them on social media as well as write letters to our senators. Can anyone say PAMA???!!!
  6. I stay in close contact with other laboratories and try to support them whenever I can. How we build each other up is a wonderful way to talk ourselves up, too!
  7. I help plan Medical Laboratory Professionals Week and make labby games and dress up contests for fun that anyone walking into our lab can partake in.
  8. I take photos at work and under the microscope and I use them for Facebook backdrops, Instagram art, and even my wedding save the dates!
  9. I’ve made art with expired agar and struck our Christmas card messages with bacteria.
  10. I reach out to our hospital marketing team for ideas to promote our laboratory personnel and what we do.
  11. I support my work facility and volunteer as an advocate from the laboratory on most projects and especially on anything that sounds fun!
  12. We train students from two different training facilities to help combat the workforce shortage.
  13. I take pictures of coworkers at work and try to document our story through my camera lens. It’s a way to relate what we do to the outside world.
  14. I’m currently helping with a project to share some vibrant SEM photography from the National Institute of Health. Each piece is of something we diagnose in our own laboratory. We plan to fill our waiting room with colorful prints and include an informational brochure highlighting our relationship with their lab and about how we test for it and identify those organisms here in our own facility.
  15. I talk to students at middle schools and high schools. I even made a two-minute Apple video about what we do in our laboratory to take the clinical lab to the students at a career fair.
  16. I share books and articles with my friends and family, and most of all, I always try to help answer their lab questions when they arise. I offer my help for any reason, even if it’s as simple as where do I go for my testing and why do I have to fast?

It’s not one size fits all, but I imagine most can find something on this list that you can do as well. Because we are all part of the visibility of the profession and in an era where healthcare has been really broken for some time, we have opportunities for change.

I started with a few small things on this list. I didn’t find all these opportunities at once. It’s been a steady grind for years saying yes to things and offering to share. At the end of the day, we need to care for our patients the best way possible, and every small act leads to something more. It could be making a burnt-out coworker laugh, supporting your local MLS program, or sharing scholarship ideas and student resources to build up your phlebotomy team. Just choose the lens that works for you and get to work focusing in and making the laboratory more visible!

Cara Bushmaker is a Laboratory Technical Supervisor at Bitterroot Health in Hamilton, Montana.

Cara Bushmaker

Left: The first test unit author Cara Bushmaker made to validate her lab’s blood product coolers for a new Massive Transfusion Protocol. And Cara’s first “dress rehearsal” PPE donning presentation at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cara Bushmaker social media post

Cara posted on her hospital’s social media account about why she loves clinical laboratory science.