Submitted by Paula Garrott, EdM., CLS(NCA)
Past President, ASCLS, 2002-03
Cheryl Caskey, MA, CLS, CLSp(NCA)
Past President, ASCLS, 2001-02

“Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it.” (Robert Collier) Characteristics of a profession include a distinct body of knowledge, a sense of duty to those served, control over all matters related to the profession, maintaining standards of excellence, formulating a code of ethics, endeavoring to elevate the profession to a position of dignity and social standing, organizing and developing a professional association, establishing criteria for recruitment and training, and recognition and esteem from others. Professionals see their work as a source of income, identify with it as life’s work, and feel they need to contribute personally to advance the practice field. Sociologists have shown that the cohesive, mutually supportive recognition of a profession is almost TOTALLY DEPENDENT on a strong, assertive professional organization.

ASCLS is an association of professionals committed to advancing the clinical laboratory science profession and its practitioners. In every employment arena there are “professionals” and there are simply “job holders.” It may be helpful to review the meaning of a profession. Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language defines a profession as “a vocation or occupation requiring advanced training in some liberal art or science, and usually involving mental rather than manual work.” In 1995, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Clinical Laboratory Scientists are professional employees under the law.

The questions posed here bring professionalism in Clinical Laboratory Science into focus. It is imperative that student and graduateprofessionals understand that the future of the profession depends on their adopting certain values and beliefs. Clinical Laboratory Science is more than a job and deserves our energy and effort to defend the practice field. When talking to individuals or groups about ASCLS, a frequent question is “what does ASCLS do for me?” or “why should I join ASCLS?” In many professions, membership in aprofessional organization is accepted practice and is considered a hallmark of professional practitioners. Professional organization membership is the vehicle to recognition and empowerment of a profession.

How do professionals know which professional organization best represents their interests? The name of the profession or the title of the professional should be in the organization name. For example, the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) is the Clinical Laboratory Science professional organization. A strong, assertive ASCLS will enhance recognition and the empowerment of Clinical Laboratory Scienceand its practitioners. Of course, the strength of a professional organization is in its members — that is why it is so important for all clinical laboratory practitioners to see membership as a privilege and a responsibility.

ASCLS plays a major role in promoting and meeting the characteristics of a profession. It has documented and defined the Body of Knowledge and a code of ethics, it contributes to establishing criteria for recruitment and education and certification as a sponsoring organization of the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Personnel (NCA) and the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), represents the interests of practitioners in the legislative and regulatory arena, promotes high standards of practice and contributes to continuing professional competence through continuing education programs and opportunities for professional development, and keeps its members informed through its publications.

As new graduates, you are entering a field with many opportunities. Clinical laboratory practitioners have an opportunity and a responsibility to serve society and to grow and develop professionally. It is estimated that 70% of all medical decisions are based on information provided by laboratory tests. We play an important role in the delivery of health care and should take pride in what we contribute!

As you enter this exciting field, you have the choice to be simply a “job holder” or to accept the role of professional. If you choose to be a professional, membership in ASCLS will enhance your development; and, as a member of ASCLS, you will promote recognition of the CLS profession.