Volume 37 Number 2 | April 2023
Benjamin Galvan, MLS(ASCP), CIC, CPH, ASCLS Patient Safety Committee
Achieving your healthcare career goals can be tough, especially when your role is not always in the spotlight. As a former laboratory professional that transitioned into the infection prevention (IP) career space, one of the greatest roadblocks was understanding how to get my name “out there” and how to make my profession as a medical laboratory scientist a desirable line-item on my resume. Below are three tips and tricks I learned along the way that helped me achieve my career goals through advancing my professional visibility that should apply to any career path you may choose to take.
1. Practice Talking about Your Role outside of the Laboratory
During the many interviews I took part in while applying for other positions outside of the lab, I came to realize that no one really understood what we do as laboratory professionals except other laboratory professionals. Imagine talking to someone about quality control of your Kirby Bauer disc diffusion susceptibility testing that has never worked in clinical microbiology—how would you explain that to someone who has never worked in a lab before? How would you leverage discussing that skill to make your experience relevant in a job interview?
Practice explaining your role to other healthcare workers and see what you come up with. Think about the following:
- How does your work tie back to patient safety?
- How does your work relate back to the continuum of care of the patient?
- How does your work tie into quality and performance improvement?
- How does your work relate back to the direct clinical care of the patient?
These universal concepts allow your fellow healthcare colleagues to wrap their proverbial heads around the complex work that laboratory professionals perform on a daily basis. This also helps them understand the importance of our work, thus improving the visibility of the profession.
“[N]etworking is one of the most important activities we can partake in to make the profession more visible and therefore more desirable to hiring managers.”
2. Step out of Your Comfort Zone
Most lab professionals I’ve come to know say that they chose the role because it’s a way to work in healthcare without having to work directly with patients. As someone who entered the laboratory profession with the same mindset, the consequence of not being patient-facing can be a detriment to the perception of our importance as healthcare workers. If your career aspirations will take you off the bench and into the proverbial “spotlight” in your next role, it’s imperative that you begin to take steps out of your comfort zone. This can be done in several ways, be it shadowing your patient-facing counterparts, participating on hospital workgroups or committees, providing formal education or presentations for your healthcare colleagues, or volunteering for multidisciplinary projects.
My first time stepping into the spotlight was giving a hospital-wide presentation during pathology grand rounds where we discussed our new automated clinical microbiology culture processor and plate incubator. Was I nervous? Of course! Did I learn a lot from the process? Absolutely! This started me on a journey that led me to shadowing our infection prevention department, working on IP-related research projects, and eventually joining the IP field.
3. Network. Network. Network.
While I was in school, the idea of “networking” always seemed intangible and unimportant. What does it really mean to “network,” and why would I spend time doing it? I’m here to tell you that networking is one of the most important activities we can partake in to make the profession more visible and therefore more desirable to hiring managers. Whether it’s attending a conference, writing an article, conducting an editorial interview, or simply participating in community activities within your facility, spreading awareness of the laboratory profession is incredibly important. By talking about the profession and advocating for its importance with other healthcare professionals, we can increase visibility and improve the perception of our critical role in the continuum of care.
Additionally, one of the greatest opportunities that will help you network is volunteering for a committee with your professional organization(s). As a member of both ASCLS and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer for the APIC National Communications Committee and the national ASCLS Patient Safety Committee. These opportunities alone have provided me so many chances to connect with healthcare professionals across the country.
We must all advocate for the laboratory profession by improving our professional visibility!
Benjamin Galvan is the Director of Infection Prevention for HCA Florida South and West Tampa Hospitals in Tampa, Florida.