My Career Bookends and ASCLS in the middle?
Demetra “Toula” Castillo, M.Ad.Ed., MLS(ASCP)CM
Almost 25 years ago, I made the best decision ever when I started in a medical technology program. I began working as a student in the hematology lab the summer after I started and landed a full-time position right after I graduated. As I began training other students in their clinical rotations, I found my passion for teaching and transitioned into a faculty position for my alma mater.
Fast forward 15 years later, I loved being in the classroom but missed the lab work, so I returned to the laboratory part time. Then a little viral pandemic hit, and suddenly I was in the lab full time. Some things have not changed, and some things have drastically changed, and I would like to share with you my observations:
No matter what analyzer you have had experience on, learning a new one is not completely like starting from scratch. In the end, an analyzer can be loaded with samples, can be cleared of samples, the same rules apply to result interpretation, and SOPs are not really all that different.
By the same respect, however……….
Troubleshooting an analyzer is vastly different to what it was before, and the age of an analyzer has a lot to do with how often you are troubleshooting. The age of the analyzer is proportional to the amount of troubleshooting/service calls you are performing. Not to mention, the troubleshooting is much more advanced, and if there is a shortage of experienced Field Service Technicians, you are doing most of that work yourself (with guidance over the phone).
The professionals in the laboratory are burned out, but they show up every day and not only do a stellar job, but also back up their coworkers to the nth degree. Yes, we are overworked and underappreciated, but we would not dare call in sick unless we were sick and if someone in the lab is drowning with work, we help them get caught up before we would even think about leaving.
The work is on steroids not only in quantity but complexity. The work has gotten harder, but that also means we get to think harder and come up with creative solutions to complex problems; solutions that are appreciated by the other health care professionals and our big brains full of wonderful knowledge are coming up with them! The work has doubled and, in some cases, tripled in number, but it also means that more patients are living longer, and the laboratory is upholding its crown as the cornerstone of clinical judgment.
ASCLS in the middle? How? I used to think that when I entered the laboratory, it became a black hole for professional society involvement and membership. But you know what, coming back to the lab, and talking to my coworkers, I have observed that they have future goals. They want to be leaders, they want to be able to communicate and change how laboratories operate, and when I mention ASCLS can help with that, it puts a smile on their face. The first time, I maintained my membership as a student, but was not involved. This time around, I am involved, and I have more confidence to not only talk about ASCLS, but also talk to other health care professionals which I was not able to do before. And I am so grateful for that!