Ally Storla, MLS(ASCP)
Social media has changed how we communicate and connect in the information age. We’ve never been able to spread ideas or connect with each other so easily. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Reddit, Instagram: all of these provide us with communities we can identify with. This is true for the medical laboratory community as well, with many of these communities serving different purposes.
Social media has been a great tool for our profession and for our organization. ASCLS has a number of social media presences including our ASCLS Facebook page and our hashtags such as #IAmASCLS and #Lab4Life. The “ASCLS Student Forum & Recent Graduates” Facebook page posts a “Free Money Friday” every week sharing scholarships for students. ASCLS Government Affairs Committee has also been utilizing social media well throughout the past year by creating calls to action that are easily shareable through the many social media communities and has received very positive responses.
On Facebook, the group “Lab Humor” seeks to provide stress-relief through humor and occasionally commentary on current issues relating to the medical laboratory. Another Facebook group “New Medical Laboratory Scientist - MLS (ASCP)” has been growing its membership dramatically and discusses all sorts of topics such as images of odd urine crystals/peripheral blood smears, venting about frustrating days, announcing “I passed my boards”, sharing laboratory memes, asking for advice, and more.
Social Media is providing our profession and our organization with so many great opportunities to connect and share our knowledge. During medical laboratory professionals week 2016 ASCLS challenged its members to take the thirty day challenge and post responses to questions on Facebook every day for thirty days. I participated in the challenge and afterwards I had many friends and family members tell me how much they enjoyed my responses and learning more about what I do.
The Advance Laboratory blog community has been providing a voice for new medical laboratory professionals such as Stephanie Noblit. She has written several articles about why nurses and medical laboratory professionals struggle to see eye-to-eye (“Beyond the Biohazard Door”), the confusing nature of our profession’s name changes (“Alphabet Soup”), maintaining professionalism and positivity when confronted with negative work environments (“Rise Above the Negativity”) and many others.
Social media sites, such as reddit.com, have users “upvote” or “downvote” topics and content that the community considers relevant. Reddit contains a community for medical laboratory professionals through a subreddit (a specific group within reddit) which can be found at www.reddit.com/r/medlabprofessionals. This subreddit has grown over time and has become a helpful community where members discuss a range of topics specific to the medical laboratory and provide community feedback, as well as features such as a FAQ section for those considering the profession or in school for the profession.
Reddit has recently had an increase in inter-professional exchanges, one from a registered nurse visiting the lab professionals’ subreddit medlabprofessionals and asking ”What can nurses do to make your job easier?” and vice versa with medical laboratory professionals visiting nursing’s subreddit and asking what we can do as medical laboratory professionals to help nursing. A range of subjects were discussed including the importance of order of draw, causes of hemolysis, clotted specimens, and recollect requests. These opportunities for inter-professional communication are becoming more obtainable thanks to social media and nursing and medical laboratory staff reaching out to solve problems relating to patient care and specimen quality together.
As anyone who has ever used social media can attest, there are often times when negative interactions cannot be avoided. The challenge is to rise above the negativity and remain professional. Social media can be a great tool for exchanging ideas, but it can also lead to unprofessional and unproductive behavior such as disrespecting other professions, arguments and bickering, and the general discourteous behavior for which the internet is often known. Despite the potential negative interactions there is a lot of positive discussion taking place through social media regarding our profession and our professional organization. Ultimately, we are the face of ASCLS and our profession in everything we do. When we talk about our profession with our friends and family, when we answer the phone in the laboratory, or when we post about a bad day we had on social media. We must always be as professional as we can when we use social media to achieve our goals as a professional society and as medical laboratory professionals.
Social media provides us with opportunities to improve inter-professional communication and help educate the medical community we work with daily. Social media presences like the ASCLS Facebook groups help increase our communication within, and our visibility outside of, our profession. Medical laboratory blogs engage and encourage new professionals by providing advice and trustworthy information. ASCLS Government Affairs Committee is better able to achieve goals and give our profession a voice by using social media to reach communities of medical laboratory professionals by not only informing them of current events but inviting them to participate in the conversation. We must continue to share our knowledge and experiences through social media to encourage others through our education, our information, and our professionalism.