Advocacy. What does it mean to advocate? The Webster Dictionary states an advocate is one who supports or promotes the interests of a cause or group. People think most advocates are those with formal positions, but everyone has the potential to be an advocate. There are many ways that you can be a voice for the laboratory. Your words can help others by giving them a glimpse into the laboratory professional’s role in the medical field. Your voice can explain our importance, value and why we love what we do.
The best and easiest place to start is close to home. You can start being an advocate in your lab or place of employment. Encourage your peers to know all their training and educational opportunities. Support your fellow coworkers by allowing them to venture out and attend talks and presentations. If you act as a trainer to students or new employees, assist them not only in the processes, but also in understanding the uses and reasons for certain tests. Volunteer to further your skillset by cross training in different departments. Stay ahead of the industry by reviewing new practices in professional publications and seeing how they can be implemented in your facility.
The next step is to go outside of your comfort zone. You can approach other departments in your hospital. The best way to gain respect is to be polite and helpful to other members of the medical team. Explain the “why’s” when something is incorrect, or errors occur. Most people don’t know much about our profession and your interaction can have a positive effect on their perception. They don’t have the same training and you can help get explain questions about the lab. Attending meetings and being on committees within the hospital can show your value to the medical team.
Visibility is a great way to bring recognition and education in your community or city. The laboratory is not something people see on their medical visits and this can encourage others to look into our amazing profession. Get a group together to participate in city-wide events, enter as a team for a race, or even dress up and participate in Lab Week Run. Volunteer at health fairs or see if you can go to local schools to discuss what we do! It’s a great way to get new people interested in our field. There are many ways to be involved and visible in the community and so it is important that we take that initiative.
If you are interested in politics, you can always begin to form a relationship with your state Congress members. Call and write them letters and/or emails letting them know what the needs of the laboratory are and how they can help. Advocate for laboratory specific issues like licensure and educational funding. Stay abreast of state specific legislation and policy that affect the medical industry, specifically the laboratory.
Finally, you can advocate on the national level. Participating in a lobby event in Washington DC (ASCLS Legislative Symposium) is a fun and interesting way to participate in your national government. Join a professional society and get involved on the national level by being on a committee or in a forum. Educate yourself on national events and policies and stay updated on their working in our national legislature. Check epidemiology and CDC trends and alerts and make sure your lab, community, and state are aware of their recommendations.
It can be hard to go outside your comfort zone, but every voice is important. I invite you to be an active voice for the laboratory at home, at work, in your community or even in the nation’s capital. It can be hard to step take these steps, but everyone has the power to be a #labvocate!
Author: Jessica Lawless