Cindy Johnson, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS President

ASCLS exists to advance the expertise of clinical laboratory professionals who, as integral members of interprofessional healthcare teams, deliver quality, consumer-focused, outcomes-oriented clinical laboratory services through all phases of the testing process to prevent, diagnose, monitor, and treat disease.

The ASCLS Board of Directors spent the last societal year revising the ASCLS Strategy Map and focusing on our “why” (our purpose) as a laboratory professional organization. It became evident that we need to find ways to advance the expertise of clinical laboratory professionals as stated in our unique critical objective above.

This can be accomplished by promoting our profession. Clinical laboratory professionals are the “heroes in lab coats,” impacting the lives of others as they often work behind the scenes. It’s time for us to break out of the basement, celebrate our contributions to patient care, and share our stories with our communities.

Strategies to enhance your professional visibility may include:

1. Share your knowledge. You are the expert in laboratory medicine. Interprofessional healthcare team meetings provide a great opportunity to show the value of your work. This professional sharing can be done through a case study presentation or discussion of new technology that may enhance laboratory test results.

2. Develop your “elevator speech.” You have a limited amount of time (15-45 seconds) to make a connection when you are walking down the hallway, standing in the elevator, or meeting someone for the first time. This is a perfect time to engage in an informal conversation that highlights the work you do. Make sure that your “elevator speech” is brief, interesting, and memorable.

For example: “As a medical laboratory scientist I have the opportunity to provide patient test results that helps the physician to diagnosis and monitor diseases.”

3. Become a mentor. Mentoring is about helping another person learn through a one-to-one relationship. This could be accomplished by training a new employee or teaching medical laboratory students. Mentors are extremely valuable as they have the ability to transfer vast knowledge and promote best practices. It is also an effective way to develop new leaders.

4. Speak at a health science career fair. Volunteer to talk with elementary school, middle school, high school, or college students about medical laboratory careers. ASCLS offers the Career Recruitment Tool Kit with a collection of recruitment materials and activities that can be used to assist in giving a presentation.

5. Participate in health fairs. One of the most recognizable forms of community-based health promotion are health fairs. Engaging with the public while performing laboratory screening tests can be an enriching experience. Provide the attendees with a laboratory fact sheet that explains their test results. The ASCLS Patient Safety Matters webpage has many resources, such as Patient Safety Tips Brochures for Patients and Providers.

6. Volunteer. There are many opportunities to utilize your expertise and skills. Dedicating time as a volunteer can build self-confidence while contributing to a worthwhile cause. Whether you are participating in a local charity walk, manning a water station at a local race, or representing the laboratory for a fundraising event at work, helping out with the smallest tasks can create a real difference in the lives of people and organizations in need.

Many of my colleagues have shared these strategies with me over the past 35 years of my laboratory career. I was encouraged to come “out of the laboratory basement” and promote the profession. It takes courage, but it is important to share your story because what you do DOES matter!

Cindy Johnson is senior director of laboratory services at CentraCare in St. Cloud, Minnesota.