Medical Laboratory Scientists who work in labs to support patient testing may perform tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of tests every year. These tests give doctors specific information regarding a patient’s current state of health, are necessary to guide initial treatment, and may help monitor future treatment plans. Typically, the scientists that perform these tests do not have the opportunity to meet many of the patients they serve daily. Fellow healthcare colleagues, the media, and other medical curriculums tend to send the message that laboratory scientists are an introverted group:
I may not know my patients personally, but I do know their story”.
Sometimes it’s a story with a happy ending. I imagine those patients receiving good news and rejoice in their joy from behind closed doors. I feel satisfied and content knowing that the information I provided will bring them some peace–some relief–from all the worry. Yet, other times, the stories don’t end as well. We think of the familiar names while we’re lying in bed at night. We remember the chaos in the blood bank trying to save that man in a trauma situation. We remember crossmatching units as fast as we can until our supplies were nearly exhausted. We remember names years later. We recognize our frequent fliers. There are times I sit at the microscope, frantically moving the field of focus up and down, around and around – just trying to find something normal. Something positive. Something to prove that what I am seeing isn’t real. I imagine the impact this has on the patient and their family. I feel the wave of emotions that comes with a dire prognosis. There are moments I feel sadness and moments I feel helplessness. I wonder how my patients are doing and try, as best as I can, to be their silent “cheerleader” from afar. Perhaps something that most people don’t think about is that for a short period of time – literally moments – I am the only person in the world that knows what battles and challenges patients will face ahead. I know before the nurse. I know before the doctor. I know before the patient’s family. I know before you. I know that as soon as I press one simple button to send your results to your provider –somebody’s life will be forever changed.It is very true that Medical Laboratory Scientists do not hold the same type of connection to their patients as, for example, our nursing colleagues. We aren’t there in front of them and most of what we do is completely from the sidelines. However, it is important to recognize that regardless of where you work in the healthcare realm, everything is personal. If you’re a patient getting lab testing done, please know that those of us behind the scenes are always rooting for you as well!