ASCLS Today Volume 32 Number 1

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Volume 32, Number 1

Leadership Development, Mentorship, and Professional Involvement

Deb Rodahl, MBA, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS President

I am a firm believer in the value that ASCLS brings to the Clinical Laboratory Sciences profession and to the practitioners within this profession. ASCLS has helped shape who I am professionally and personally, for which I will always be grateful.

I joined ASCLS in 1990 and was immediately invited to get involved by helping with the state Government Affairs Committee by a co-worker. She knew that I needed to get involved to get to know the organization and to get value for my membership. 
I was really excited to attend my first national meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, and I decided to make it a road trip and brought my mother along. We were joined by my youngest sister so that they had a chance to go sightseeing during the day while I participated in the meeting. I will always remember how many people stopped me to introduce themselves and asked how I liked the meeting. I already started to feel like I was part of a very large family. After Nashville, I decided to commit to attending the national meeting every other year – so my next meeting was in Chicago, Illinois. I still remember walking into a pre-house meeting late, due to a delayed flight and having so many people again welcome me to the meeting. I was not allowed to slip quietly into that session. Wow! I had expanded my professional family. I have not missed a meeting since! I fondly refer to the annual meeting as my professional family reunion. 
Last year as candidate for President-Elect, I was asked, “What strengths do you possess that will position ASCLS as a strong, relevant professional organization leading our practice field through these exciting, yet challenging, times of change?” I shared a few bits of who I am: 
  • Born and reared in St. Paul, Minnesota 
  • Tail-end of the Baby Boomer generation 
  • Middle child in a family of 5 
  • Personal philosophy of “where there’s a will, there’s a way” – particularly when it comes to “doing the right thing” 
I also shared my strengths and background, which in-short, say that I have been around for a while in the laboratory profession and with ASCLS. 
  • Laboratory leader for 32 years 
  • Lead with integrity 
  • Patient and customer centric 
  • Excellent organization and time management skills 
  • Strong dedication and commitment 
  • Active ASCLS member since 1990 
  • 6 years on ASCLS Board as Region V Director 
In my year as president, I intend to focus on areas that have been identified as a need in our organization: Leadership Development, Mentorship, Communication, and Professional Involvement. For several years we have heard from state and constituent societies that they are recycling their leaders and struggling to engage others to step forward to take on these roles. We have so many talented members in ASCLS that could help mentor our new leaders, but we have not pulled together a solid process to link these members together. We continue to develop our ASCLS website and member communities. However, this year we struggled with the absence of the ASCLS Today and it, therefore, highlighted a need to better define our communication processes. Lastly, I have long been disheartened by the difficulty in recruiting and retaining members in ASCLS. Too many of our co-workers are missing out on the value of professional involvement. 
We will continue to build on the work that has been started this year under the leadership of Suzanne Campbell. The Root Cause Task Force will help us come up with strategies to help support the needs in our constituent societies to grow and develop leaders. We started a transition this year to review the process for providing some orientation to the constituent society presidents-elect, which has historically been three hours of presentations (parade of committees) and some time for questions. This year we pre-recorded several ASCLS leadership-based sessions that will be a great resource for all our ASCLS leaders with the added value of being able to refer to the information at any time. This allowed us more time to share challenges and ideas with each other and to interact as a group, so people could get to know each other better. 
We also recognized the need to provide mentorship support for new leaders in ASCLS. The Mentorship Task Force has officially been transitioned to a full-fledged committee in ASCLS with the goal of expanding their reach into this arena. I will be appointing a Leadership Academy Task Force, which will help us sort through the goals for the Leadership Academies at the national, regional, and state levels. Should they be similar, or should there be a level progression and curriculum difference between the state/regional academies and the national academy? We need to answer that question first and then verify or create the structure that supports that answer. 
We heard and shared all the concerns regarding our ASCLS Today newsletter. It has been missed and that has led to the need to really identify our communication processes in general and specifically how we ensure what happened this year is not repeated. We have invested in our ASCLS journal and are amid transitioning to the new software platform. That work will continue through this next year as well. All this work is exciting and will strengthen the core of ASCLS.
We know we that we still have challenges ahead and ASCLS will continue to maintain an active role in the government and regulatory arena. PAMA is a major challenge and our members have helped with our response. The Federal budget process is likely to target some programs, which include cutting allied health education funding. The shortage of practitioners and educators is being experienced across the country and this is very troubling to us. As always, quality and patient safety are of critical importance for our members too. ASCLS will remain in the forefront with those topics.
At last year’s Board of Director’s Planning Day during our ice-breaker activity, I asked all the board members and candidates to complete a very quick and easy assessment tool – sort of a mini Meyers-Briggs. It was a fun way to get to know each other. In that assessment, I scored out as an ESTJ, which is also how I score on the full Meyers-Briggs assessment. What I got from my assessment, however, really highlights why I am here today. ESTJs are civic-minded workers who strive to improve society and like to be part of organizations. There was more, of course, but this was the aha moment for me. I am a “joiner” and learned early on that you need to get involved to gain the true value of the “membership.” My personal goal in this next year is to share the value and power of being a “joiner” and why being part of a professional organization brings value beyond the tangible membership benefits. 
The value of membership is there for each one of us – simply for the taking. ASCLS’s One Voice, One Vision is more than a catchy slogan, and more than the sum of its parts. The Voice of our grass roots membership is the foundation of ASCLS and what makes this organization so effective. ASCLS has also clearly demonstrated the Vision to plan for the future while dealing with the reality of today. We have proven the true power that we have when we all work together towards the same goals. ASCLS provides the foundation that allows us to do that. I am proud to give back to the organization that has given so much to me and I will endeavor to serve with integrity and a collaborative spirit.

I Want It All!

Nadine Fydryszewski, PhD, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Region II Director

As we move through the phases of our life, we are constantly challenged with balancing our personal and professional lives. We are often in conflict with regard to all we must do versus all we want to do; all we are versus all we want to be. We are constantly striving to fulfill our personal and professional goals, but challenged with doing it all, having it all, wanting it all.” Gotta find me a future move out of my way, I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now” (Freddie Mercury – Queen).

I want to have career advancement and do well at work, I want to go out with friends ( but I’m at work), I want to go to the gym (but I’m at work), I want to pursue a higher degree (but I’m at work), I want to be active in my professional organization (but I’m at work), I want to have a personal life (but I’m at work), I want to play golf (but I’m at work), I want travel (but I’m at work). Does it seem like work is consuming your life? We walk the tightrope of life, the balancing act of finding the time and energy for everything we want - friends, work, family, hobbies, playtime, travel, social life, and somewhere in all of that, time to rest, relax, renew. But…… “I want it all and I want it now!” 

Distributing our time for all the “have to dos” and “wants” is easier said than done. We are also challenged with meeting the needs of others who impact our lives, both personal and professional. Sometimes those responsibilities can become first priority versus our “wants.” In some aspects, there is a commonality across the generations of our “have to dos” and our “wants,” and the challenges to achieve them. But…..I want it all and I want it now!” 

Young adults are starting a career, and the sky is the limit with so many things to do, so many things to want. You want to start your life, have some fun, do well in work, start a meaningful relationship, a family, look ahead to career advancement, pursue an advanced degree. “It ain’t much I’m asking, if you want the truth, Here’s to the future for the dreams of youth. I want it all, I want it all, I want it all and I want it now” (Freddie Mercury – Queen). 

Mid-lifers have, for the most part, established a personal life with a family, children, personal relationships, and a level of career success. All of this requires a significant time commitment to maintain, and what seems like no time for the other wants in life. As we get older, we have many of the responsibilities mentioned plus the care of aging parents, all of which add up to having little time left for the other wants. But……I want it all and I want it now!” 

“Listen all you people, come gather round, I gotta get me a game plan, gotta shake you to the ground, But just give me, huh, what I know is mine, People do you hear me, just gimme the sign, I want it all, I want it all, I want it all and I want it now”(Freddie Mercury – Queen). Interesting lyrics that reveal a key element to achieving our have to dos and our wants, “I gotta get me a game plan!”
Having a game plan is a first step in balancing our personal and professional lives and aligning our wants – both personal and professional. We may think about this all the time, and have a mental map, a mental picture. But, do we ever write it down – see the visual of the responsibilities versus the wants and desires? Once you commit something to paper, it is more tangible versus the “mind’s eye” view. Think about it – as professionals we would never think of pursuing a project without a plan, the strategic plan, the process, the standard operating procedure. Why is our life any different? 

Perhaps the idea of a major life plan is a little daunting, so think of a first step. How about “Today’s To-Do List?” List the five things you “have to do” and the five things you “want to do.” Make sure you do not compromise and strike out the wants in favor of more have to dos. Plan the day and make the time to achieve all of the have to dos and the wants. We know life does not follow the perfect plan – the best laid plans go awry. Life throws us curve balls and we have to duck! But, can you achieve the have to dos and at least half of the wants? It is a great achievement if you do three out of five! Congratulations, and next week you will strive to do better. Strive to achieve those wants with as much determination, dedication, and motivation as you do to achieve the have to dos.

But, another view is that our have-to-dos may also be our wants! We have to take care of our aging parents, but we want to take care of them. It is our joy (want) and our job (have to do). At times it seems frustrating because we have to change our plans, social event, a trip, or rearrange work commitments, to have to do something that in our heart we want to do. We have to go to work, but we want to go to work. We like our job, being with colleagues, excelling in our profession – the have to do is a want to do. On the flip side, our want to dos can be our have to dos. We want to go to the gym is also we have to go to the gym to stay in shape, for physical and mental well-being.

“So be sure when you step, 
Step with care and great tact. 
And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. 
And will you succeed? 
Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) 
Kid, you’ll move mountains.” 
(Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!)

“I Want it All” - Freddie Mercury & Queen - listen to be inspired.


ASCLS/PAC: A Way We Can Do Something More, Right Now!

Stephanie K. Rink, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Political Action Committee Vice Chair

Between all the federal regulatory changes to personnel standards, cuts to laboratory reimbursement, and the current environment in Washington, myself and many other laboratorians find ourselves wishing we could have a larger impact on political issues, particularly with respect to those affecting our profession. 

I frequently hear the phrase “I voted – but is there something more I can do right now?” Many of us may have also heard the term “PAC” used frequently during elections, but do you know what a PAC is, what it does, and most importantly, that ASCLS has one? A PAC, or Political Action Committee, is a voluntary, nonprofit organization that raises funds to financially support the campaigns of carefully selected candidates for elected office. The ASCLS/PAC is a Separate Segregated Fund, which means it receives donations from a limited group of individuals (in this case, ASCLS members), and then contributes to the campaigns of individuals who demonstrate a likelihood of supporting that organization’s issues. The ASCLS/PAC is overseen by a Board of Trustees, with one trustee from each of the ten ASCLS Regions, a new professional member, and a student member. 

Congressional mid-term elections take place later this year and donating to the ASCLS/PAC is a way we can all do something more right now.

As medical laboratory professionals, it is part of our professional duty to advocate for our profession and for the patients we serve. Donating to the PAC is a simple way to do just that. It is important to note that ASCLS is the only laboratory organization with a PAC, and this PAC is a critical tool for gaining access and attention for laboratory issues. The more donations received, the more we can contribute, and the larger we can grow our too-often “behind-the-scenes” image in the public and legislative arenas. 

The PAC has made donations to Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN), who is on the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN), who chairs the House Committee of Veterans Affairs, and Congressman Raul Ruiz (D-CA), who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Both Roe and Ruiz are physicians who appreciate the value of laboratory services. All of these committees can be highly influential when it comes to many of the issues that face the laboratory profession - and it is a priority of the PAC to tie donations to the ASCLS legislative agenda. 

The contributions went towards hosting campaign events that were attended by other healthcare groups, and went on to raise 10 to 15 times our initial contribution for their campaigns. This demonstrates the power that our PAC dollars can have. They won’t just remember ASCLS for contributing the $1,000 to host their events, but instead for the total amount raised for their respective campaigns.

The ASCLS/PAC has a fundraising goal of $50,000. This is an increase over the nearly $30,000 generously donated by ASCLS members in previous years, but it is most certainly attainable. If every ASCLS member donated just $20, we could triple that goal amount. Think of the vast impact we could have then! 

While the current political scene may seem discouraging to many laboratorians, we don’t have to wait to make our voice heard – we ARE able to do something more right now! It’s been said that “politicians never stop campaigning,” and so, also, we as laboratorians should never stop campaigning for our profession and for our patients. As the ASCLS/PAC website states, “Now more than ever, laboratory professionals MUST take an active role to see that congressional reforms of American health care support cost-effective, high-quality clinical laboratory services.” 

Please, take time to consider the opportunity we have to actively do something more right now by donating to the ASCLS/PAC. Donations can be made by visiting Note: You must be signed in on the ASCLS website before you can donate, donations are not tax deductible, and your decision whether to donate does not affect your rights as an ASCLS member in any way.


Student Forum: Be Penicillium in a World of Molds

Maria Rodriguez, ASCLS Student Forum Chair 

If I received a dime every time I needed to explain what Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) is, I would have more money than Bill Gates. The first 100 times that people asked me I was more than happy to answer, but there came a point where it was exhausting to have to explain my career choice to family, friends, and acquaintances. “My brothers do not have to explain themselves,” I said to my dad when he got mad at me for rolling my eyes at one of my relatives who was asking, for the 11th time, why my career is important. “Of course David and Daniel do not have to explain themselves. They are going to be Engineers!” he replied. Four years into my career and my family still does not understand what I do. My dad always tells people, “She is going to be like the lady on the TV show ‘Bones.’” It is like Elizabeth LeFors, former Student Forum Secretary, explained in her ASCLS Today article “Yes, We Matter.” “It is sad how little people know about our profession.” Thus, it is imperative that we, the MLS professionals of the future, take a stand and scream to the world why we matter. 

I understand it is hard to be a spokesperson of an underappreciated profession by yourself. However, you are not alone. The Student Forum and ASCLS provide opportunities for future and current MLS professionals to come together and share ideas to increase the knowledge for the public. Together we fight for our profession. Being part of ASCLS allows you to create strong connections with people from around the nation. You get to learn more about the profession and make friends for life. We are the people who understand you and share your passion for MLS. There are several ways to promote our profession, and today I want to talk about one of those ways. 

In the past year, the program director and I got together and decided that it was time to create the first MLS Club at Montana State University, the only university that offers an MLS program in Montana. The thought of establishing a new club may sound tedious and scary. The first thought that came to mind was, “Are people going to care and join our new organization?” Admittedly, I was hesitant at first. I was not sure if we could overcome so many obstacles. Nevertheless, we knew that establishing a club was the best way to advertise medical laboratory sciences on a campus where agricultural science and engineering take all the attention. 

To create an organization, the first thing you should do is find support from the faculty in your department. Professors usually love getting involved to help students. Start with your program director; he or she can direct you toward success. After you find a professor that supports your idea, make an appointment with the office that oversees student organizations on your campus. They provide you with guidelines to follow to be recognized as an official club on your university campus. Here at Montana State University, we needed ten signatures and an advisor that works full-time on campus. Finding ten signatures was easy, but keeping people engaged was a challenge. College students do not think they have time to get involved in activities other than academics. It is disappointing when only a few people come to events you spent weeks preparing. However, everything in life takes time; you just need to keep going. Get your friends involved. Things are always better when you have friends supporting you. Public relations are also crucial. Posters, social media, and information sessions are your keys to success. 

The ASCLS Student Forum can help you in various ways. I encourage you to get in contact with the president of your state chapter. He or she can send you the contact information of the Student Forum state representative. Your Student Forum state representative can send you information about the upcoming ASCLS meetings, scholarships, events, and updates. You are encouraged to invite your student representative to help you plan some events for your club. Maybe he or she can provide a presentation on ASCLS and the profession, or maybe you would love to host a Board of Certification Jeopardy to help seniors practice for their exams.
What about a pizza party or lab Olympics? We are here to help, and we love having people involved. Also, feel free to use our social media and post your concerns. I am sure many of our members would love helping you out. Attend your state meeting! Your club can plan a field trip to attend the spring meeting in your state and network with other students and professionals. 

It might take time, but it is worth it. Creating a club will not only help the students in your program to know more about each other and the profession, but it will also allow you to build a united front on campus and start educating other students on the meaning and importance behind the MLS degree. You and your peers will become spokespeople for our profession, and your voices combined with the voices of all the members of ASCLS will reach new horizons. Our profession will receive the recognition it deserves. 

I know as an undergraduate it is discouraging to have people underestimate the value of your future career, but forge onward and make the best out of your circumstances. Be the penicillium in a world of molds. Be an advocate for the profession. Let people know that medical laboratory scientists are the best-hidden secret hospitals have. I encourage you to think about it. Not many people know we are there, yet our work helps provide 70% of the data on which doctors make decisions. If that is not essential in the medical field, I don’t know what is. We are superheroes with an undercover identity, and our power is to solve puzzles. Sure, my brothers are going to be engineers, and that is cool, but you know what? I am going to be a microbiologist, immunologist, blood banker, chemist, hematologist, and phlebotomist, all at once. Saving lives one test tube at the time, and that is way cooler.


New Professionals Forum: Crashing Probes: My First Year on the Bench

Kelcey E Harper, MLS(ASCP)CM, New Professionals and New Members Forum Chair

When I was a student, I spent countless hours studying for exams hoping I would make it to graduation. Prior to graduation, I spent hours searching for jobs hoping I would get an offer before I even had my degree in hand. I didn’t want just any job, I wanted THE job. As a student, I had so many interests in different subject areas and it was hard to choose a favorite. I kept this in mind while applying for jobs. I didn’t want to limit myself to one department. I wanted to grow my skill set in as many departments as possible. I searched for jobs as a generalist, but found they were few and far between. Many hospitals began switching over their labs into specialties, where a MLS would only work in a single department.

During the spring semester of my senior year, the program director sent my class a job posting for a generalist position at a small, orthopedic hospital in Boston, one with which I was unfamiliar. I decided to apply and soon after I was called in for an interview. During the interview, I felt like I could see myself working there. After leaving the interview, I remember the giant smile I had on my face. I wanted that job, I wanted to be a part of their team. Soon after, I received a job offer from this small, orthopedic hospital and I graciously accepted.

I started at my new job in June of 2016. I was going to be one of the few MLSs trained in every department: hematology, chemistry, blood bank, and microbiology. Going in, I was extremely nervous. During clinical rotations in school, you are constantly observing and putting into use everything you have learned. You’re gaining experience from seasoned MLSs and trying to absorb everything they teach you in so little time. I was most nervous about making mistakes, even though as a new MLS I was bound to make them. 

My first day of training was a long one. I was not accustomed to waking up at 4 a.m. to be at work on time. Nevertheless, I started my day in chemistry where I was being shown each different type of rack the Siemens Dimension® EXL™ uses for patient samples. Each sample rack had different colors—yellow, black, and orange. Black racks were for full tubes, yellow and orange for pour offs, A1Cs, etc. I felt pretty confident in choosing the proper rack and loading it on the instrument. However, less than 15 minutes into my shift of loading on the morning run, I heard a loud noise coming from the instrument. The probe had crashed because I left the caps on the tubes. I thought to myself “what a rookie mistake.” We had to change the probe before continuing on with the morning run. I felt awful and sick to my stomach. After the run was over and we had some downtime, I went into the restroom to regain my composure. Later that day, I knocked over a rack of A1Cs. Needless to say, I was counting down the hours until it was time to go home. I powered through my shift until 3:30 p.m., when I clocked out and had a long drive home. I broke down from being so disappointed in myself and then I remembered what the senior MLS told me before leaving for the day, “We have all done it, many times. It is just a probe.” I was able to find comfort in that and prepare for the next day. 

Confidence on the bench comes from experience and learning from your mistakes. We make mistakes when we are too afraid of making mistakes. We are not perfect and we certainly do not know everything there is to know about the lab. Crashing that probe was more than a mistake, it was a humbling experience for me and it will make me a better MLS. This was not going to be the only mistake I ever made, but it will be the last time I forget to take the caps off the tubes! Although that day was a low point, there were many more highs to count. After chemistry I moved to hematology. When hematology ended, I started training in microbiology and blood bank. I fell in love with microbiology and I finally found the one department where I felt like I belonged. 

The culture of our lab is a very supportive one, from the lab manager down to the MLSs. It is a family-like atmosphere where you can grow and thrive. They pride themselves on the mentorship of young MLSs so no matter where they might go next, they will be prepared for whatever is tossed at them. Our supervisors do whatever they can to give us as many educational opportunities as possible, including attending professional society meetings. Many MLSs are given projects to work on such as lab safety, updating procedures, and validating instrumentation. After my initial training, I became a team leader for the hospital’s Antibiotic Stewardship Program (ASP).

I began collection data on perioperative antibiotic usage and putting together the year’s antibiogram. Working on the ASP gave me the opportunity to communicate and work together alongside physicians, nurses, and pharmacists. In blood bank, I was given the task of creating the maintenance schedule and revamping it to increase compliance. The added administrative responsibilities have given me new knowledge and skills I can take with me wherever I go.

If there is one take away from my first year on the bench, it’s that there is always something left to learn, whether you have been a MLS for 40 years or you are a baby MLS like me. Mistakes will be made and probes will crash but perseverance is key. Never give up and never doubt yourself. Keep persisting. Everything we do in the lab is for the benefit of our patients. We do this for them and we save lives every day. 

Don’t forget—one day you’ll be the senior MLS watching a newbie crash the probe, just like you did on your first day.