By Linette Granen, Director of Membership & Marketing, APHL
This was a question recently posted to one of my LinkedIn groups’ discussion boards, and I realized I needed to share my answer with as many people I could. I turned my answer into an essay* about my years in the laboratory profession and I do want to share it.
(*Editor’s note: Linette wrote “assay” instead of “essay.” That’s how committed to laboratory science she is!)
After being in the clinical laboratory science field for well over 30 years, I would recommend a career in clinical laboratory science to young people. And yes, I have had the opportunity (and challenge) of working the late shift while having a one year old whom I saw for only an hour or two a day; I have worked in a doctor’s office where I did EKGs, X-rays, ultrasounds and lab work, although I made it very clear that I was not trained to do them; I have been the manager of diagnostic laboratory services at a college of veterinary medicine; and I eventually landed in my current job as the marketing and membership director for APHL.
While there were challenges and frustrations working in a laboratory, I am an optimistic type of person, and I think that the laboratory profession has been elevated in the perception of patients and the public in the past few years. We as laboratory professionals (current and former) need to continue our efforts to improve that perception. I honestly think we can be our own worst enemies; we often struggle to unite and bring others into the fold instead of taking our future into our own hands and changing things.
In many ways, the laboratory profession has been good to me over the years, and I am passionate that it continue to be a viable piece of the healthcare system in this country. I remember years ago when I was working for the vet school, I wanted to elevate the medical technologists who worked in the lab into the “professional” ranks. The human resources department was astounded to learn that the US Department of Labor cited medical technology as its example of a professional position, noting that it required a extensive medical knowledge and the ability to make vital decisions every day. Needless to say, the med techs got their professional upgrade and their pay raises.
After years of working with public health laboratories, I see a passion there that I didn’t see in the purely clinical lab field, and it’s very encouraging! I see lab professionals that do clinical work but also do screening tests that affect the make-up of the flu vaccine you and I get each year. They are able to determine the exact strain of Salmonella that is causing a national foodborne illness outbreak. They can confirm a metabolic disorder in a newborn thus allowing that child to lead a normal life. They can detect harmful bacteria and chemicals in drinking and recreational water. And those are just a few examples. What I’ve learned over the years is that if you are unhappy in your job, no matter what it is, you are the only one who can do anything about that.
Just my opinion…
What a wonderful little “assay” you developed for others to learn about a career in the medical laboratory profession. I remember when I first met you at a NLTN sponsored rabies workshop in the 90’s. I was working for the TX DSHS laboratory and zoonosis control division conducting rabies testing and building a regional reference rabies typing laboratory with some help from CDC. You, and your colleagues at NLTN, were such great ambassadors for the medical laboratory and public health. And, you continue in that role now with APHL.
It’s interesting to me to read your comments regarding the public health laboratory. As you know, I came from that wonderful background early in my career which really molded my view and impressions for how important laboratory professionals are to others. And, now, in my present role as a Professor and Chair of a Clinical Laboratory Science Program, as well as an Associate Dean for Research, I continue to see the strong correlation and synergy between public health and the medical/clinical laboratory environment.
Keep on recommending this field to young people. I know I do! I also try to illustrate how important we truly are and how we all need to keep “telling our story” so that others learn about this career track. We need to stand up and volunteer in healthcare settings, publish our research, and be model programs for education. We must end the “our own worst enemy” characteristics and step up to the plate. It’s time, and way overdue.
Thanks for your comments. I miss our workshops and I always look forward to seeing you and I hope we have future collaborative opportunities.