How the Internet Can Be Used to Promote the Profession

Volume 35 Number 2 | April 2021

Joanna F. Miranda, MLS(ASCP)CM, and Byanca Narro, MLS(ASCP)CM

Joanna MirandaByanca NarroWho would have thought that a little over six months after our graduation from Texas State University, a pandemic would ensue and change the course of the rest of our lives? Due to SARS-CoV-2, we’ve now become instrumental in the testing for COVID-19 and have received a lot of praise for the work we do on the frontlines. But does the public really understand who we are and what we do? It’s debatable.

Many of the friends and family that we speak to assume we just collect specimens, push buttons, and print out results. What many don’t understand is that we actually analyze each specimen that comes into the laboratory, critically think about the results that the instruments give us, and then interpret these results to other healthcare professionals. Due to the pandemic, medical laboratory professionals have received more visibility as compared to previous years. The public is beginning to realize who we are, what we do, and how vital our roles are to patient care.

Now that we have received some recognition in the world, it’s time for laboratory professionals to speak up! We need to promote our profession. When kids are asked what they want to be, they often respond with nurse, surgeon, or pharmacist. As important as those healthcare professions are, those jobs simply cannot be done without the laboratory. We believe that we speak for all laboratorians when we say that our biggest pet peeve is when we tell somebody we work in a lab, and they automatically think and respond, “Oh, so you draw blood?” Of course, as medical lab scientists and technicians, our area of expertise is so much more than that. We need more appreciation and recognition of who we are on the healthcare team.

Many of us lab nerds tend to be introverted or reserved and accept the short end of the stick in the medical world. Many of our colleagues don’t even know that we have to obtain a degree before joining this profession. During the pandemic, we’ve been pushed to the forefront of patient care and been given some of the limelight that nurses, doctors, and other health professionals receive. There is no doubt that our workload has significantly increased, especially with the additional testing and precautions providers have set in place for our patients. So here is the question: how can we better raise awareness of our profession?

It has become increasingly difficult to recruit students to our profession, mainly because we work behind the scenes and aren’t as well known in the medical community. Nursing tends to have an army of recruiters because when you or a loved one needs medical attention, most interactions are with a nurse. Nurses are very strong advocates for what they do and had to fight for their recognition, too. It’s time for us laboratorians to get creative.

We need to reach out to young people, explain to them what we do, and demonstrate why we are so important. In pre-pandemic times, the answer would be as simple as having presentations at the local high school, attending conferences, or having recruitment stands at your university. Now that we live with strict precautions and guidelines, we need to find new ways to spread the gospel of the lab. Something that might help us achieve that is the almighty internet.

Thanks to the internet, we can now have live Zoom conferences with local high school health science clubs, conduct short interviews, and talk to local news outlets about who we are. We can also host live meetings with other students and young professionals across the nation. Through the power of social media, we can record our Zoom meetings and share them so that other young and aspiring professionals can have the chance to hear and see what our lives are like pre-pandemic and during the pandemic. And for the people that are not big fans of Zoom, YouTube is also a great tool. If our community can encourage some individuals or groups to start a YouTube channel, there is hope to reach out to the high school crowds. After all, social media is where young people find inspiration for many things.

If we band together as a profession, virtual Q&As can also be conducted at various times during the day for anyone to log on and attend. If we make the effort to start promoting the profession early on, such as attending middle/high school events or career days and having a bigger platform in college degree brochures, then we can save the trajectory of laboratory professionals in this country.

Currently, many facilities are losing laboratory professionals due to the pandemic, better paying facilities, changing of professions, or retirement. The future of medical laboratory scientists relies on us making more of an effort, especially since we will soon be on the rise to becoming a profession that everyone will know and respect for their healthcare needs.

Joanna Miranda is a Medical Laboratory Scientist at a major area hospital in downtown Austin, Texas.

Byanca Narro is a Medical Laboratory Scientist in a major area hospital in Kyle, Texas.

Both professionals graduated from Texas State University in August 2019.

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“The future of medical laboratory scientists relies on us making more of an effort, especially since we will soon be on the rise to becoming a profession that everyone will know and respect for their healthcare needs.”