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

Merriam-Webster defines advocacy as the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal.

Advocacy is one of the strategic pillars of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS). The Society works towards actively shaping the environment for laboratory professionals to be key advocates for patient safety and healthcare quality.

ASCLS offers the information, tools, and resources that laboratory professionals need to become effective advocates. Through championing the laboratory profession, laboratory professionals give a voice to the essential role that they play in providing high-quality, affordable laboratory services. With energetic participation in advocacy, every laboratory professional can help the profession to improve and move to higher levels.

Patient Safety Matters
On the ASCLS website you will find information from the work of the Patient Safety Committee that will aide you in enhancing your role as an advocate for patient safety. The Patient Safety Committee is continuously looking for volunteers to work on patient safety initiates. We need all laboratory professionals building a culture of patient safety, not only in the laboratory, but throughout the healthcare facility.

The Road to Understanding
The Road to Understanding Campaign was developed by the ASCLS Promotion of the Profession Committee and aims to share your stories and encourage other laboratory professionals to be strong patient advocates.

Tell your story of how you educated or elevated our profession to another healthcare colleague, such as explaining why a specimen must be collected correctly, the consequences of skipped or ignored quality control, or other important topics. Describe to us an interaction where the laboratory’s role in patient care was emphasized. What You Do DOES Matter!

Email your story to Eric Stanford to be included on the The Bench Connection blog.

Edith Burlingame gives a tour of the laboratory to Minnesota Representative Tom Emmer
CentraCare Laboratory Services: Edith Burlingame, MLS, gives a tour of the laboratory to Minnesota Representative Tom Emmer.

Laboratory Policy
Another avenue to be a laboratory advocate is by becoming involved in laboratory policy setting. The ASCLS Government Affairs Committee (GAC), in collaboration with the ASCLS executive vice president and legislative consultant, ensures the public policy environment—which includes both legislative and regulatory—is conducive to laboratory professionals working fully within their scope of practice where it will improve patient outcomes. This includes pressing for high standards that include state licensure and stronger rules on certification.

The annual Laboratory Legislative Symposium held in Washington, D.C., in mid-March provides an excellent opportunity to become a “labvocate.” Through this ASCLS tradition that originated in 1989, the members of the Clinical Laboratory Management Association (CLMA), American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), Association of Genetic Technologists (AGT), American Medical Technologists (AMT), the National Society for Histotechnology (NSH), and the Philippine Association of Medical Technologists-USA (PAMET-USA) meet with their representatives and senators on Capitol Hill as a unified front on behalf of our profession. Each year these leading organizations urge their members and leaders to come to Washington to provide a visible and informed voice and to make our concerns known inside Congress.

The Legislative Symposium provides guided education on issues affecting the laboratory profession. Attendees are coached on presentation techniques so they can effectively talk to their congressional representatives during their appointments on Capitol Hill. They are well received in the congressional offices, and often the legislative personnel are familiar with the vital role of laboratory professionals, as they or their family members have been impacted by laboratory test results.

Attendees return home from Washington with first-hand knowledge of the political system in action and confidence that they make a difference. To preserve momentum, we encourage laboratory professionals to keep this line of communication open to our congressional leaders as it is an invaluable tool for change. Several of our members have even invited their representatives and senators to come tour their laboratories when they are back in the district. This is a great opportunity to have them see the important work you do every day to improve the lives of our patients.

Please join us at the 2020 Legislative Symposium, which will be held March 16-17 at the Hilton Alexandria Old Town in Alexandria, Virginia. WE NEED YOU, LABVOCATE!

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