My Relationship with Clinical Pathology

By Angela Zellner posted 08-06-2019 21:03


My Relationship with Clinical Pathology; A Love Story

In the spirit of February’s Valentine’s Day celebrations, the ASCLS February discussion questions posed by Stephanie Noblit were: “What do you love about our profession and ASCLS? Every relationship has things it needs to work on; what aspects of our profession and ASCLC do we need to work on?” My response follows.

I know it’s not February anymore and Valentine’s Day has passed, but I will still, in the spirit of love, go beyond just the holiday. What I love about the Clinical Pathology Laboratory profession is the many facets that it encompasses! Many people, as most Laboratory Professionals know, assume I’m in a hazmat suit or akin to a mad scientist cartoon.

I love when I make an explanation that expresses the broad reach of the profession that I chose, I can be proud of how far I've come in my relationship with Clinical Pathology.
I was drawn in by the mystery of the Laboratory; it was behind the scenes, not too many people knew about it. On my first visit to a hospital laboratory I was jealous and I wanted to belong there one day. The profession had an attractiveness that I couldn't quite put my finger on until a few years into my career. The fact that so many hands were a part of the healthcare of one person was fascinating to me. The laboratory held a lot of the power in my eyes.

The mystery began to wane once I began my relationship with the Laboratory; there were so many policies and pre-analytical problems that could arise without me even accessioning the specimen. I thought when I worked in healthcare all of the people would act as a group of professional adults, with the sharp acuteness of a business leader and professionalism of a well-seasoned director. The deeper in the relationship I got with Clinical Laboratory, the more I'd get excited and then sometimes let down, as in any relationship. I would eventually move around to a few different areas within Clinical Pathology wanting to find my perfect fit. Maybe I wasn't really a fit for this mystery I had initially chased after.

During our early years together I had fun. I made friends and worked all of theholidays and overtime I could. I attended education conferences and gained the required CEUs, essentially going through the motions and making money!
I chose to challenge myself when life's circumstances began to challenge my relationship with the career I was now questioning. The opportunity to grow in the career I'd begun to become disenchanted by presented itself. The Categorical Examination Preparatory Program opportunity required me to level up and sit for my BOC, in relationship terms, becoming exclusive with Clinical Biochemistry. While being exclusive has its perks, why was I adoringly eyeing the Clinical Pathology Education department's onboarding and orienting processes and sneaking side long glances at the Global Leadership Learning Institutes aspiring leader courses? Wasn't I happy with my new exclusive relationship since attaining credentials after BOC? I didn't know my exclusive relationship with Clinical Pathology would come with problems as other relationships do; it wasn't just SOPs, quality control, calibrations, maintenance and competencies.

5 1/2 years in still wasn't enough to save our exclusive love for one another. I started seeing gaps in our relationship and the broad area that the profession stretched. I decided to take myself and Clinical Pathology to couples counseling! This type of couples counseling included; career management class, feedback sessions, thoughts of quitting, leadership classes, and taking on more tasks in Clinical Biochemistry. To learn more I began taking on mentors, including others in our growth process, seeking relationship advice from those who had been in the field for years and leading by example. I interviewed new hires, young managers,and directors and leaders within the civic realm. 

All of this work allowed me to come to a conclusion with the Clinical Pathology profession. There is always room for growth and innovation. I didn't want to focus on just the analytic and technical aspect of my relationship with Clinical Pathology. Guess who didn't mind me focusing on the personal aspects, engaging others and shining light on opportunities...Clinical Pathology.


I've learned that we aren't just numbers, specimens, and hidden behind the scenes in ASCLS. We are engaged and do our best to present opportunities for others to grow. I love that in spite of the tough parts that come with orienting new hires, transition for leaders, professionalism, questionable moves and inspections, we still have a community that is ready to answer questions. I have learned so much fromhow the profession has challenged and stretched me. My relationship has grown and expanded beyond the exclusivity of Clinical Biochemistry C (ASCP) because my love is not a normal one. It's different and we've agreed that we can develop others who, like me, want more. In this relationship journey we found gaps that I am working on that spill over into the broader spectrum of professional and personal development for young professionals and aspiring leaders.

As of June 2019 we were still in couples’s counseling, currently I’ve been allowed to take time in the same realm I was giving side long glances...Human Resources. Things are looking great and I hope for a future in building out the perfect liaison with Clinical Pathology and Human Resources.

Angela Zellner C(ASCP)CM