Going in a bit of a different direction today…I posted this on my Facebook page last year during lab week. For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately. I think because we have had several cases at work lately that I have been personally involved in that have hit a little close to home. For example, the 21 year old who had been in remission for years, and while looking at her slide from a routine checkup, I found indicators of relapse. Sure enough, she has relapsed with an aggressive form of leukemia, and her prognosis is very poor. And it was on me to make sure that I was 100% right about what I was seeing before I reported that out to her doctor.
Lab week this year is in late April, but that doesn’t mean I can’t re-share this now, right? I really hope to share more of the cases that we see on a daily basis, especially the ones that stick with me.
This is the one week out of the year to celebrate our profession and educate people on what we do. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that our profession exists, and those that do don’t truly understand what it is that we do. So, for those of you who aren’t sure what goes on in a a hospital lab, here is an example of something that hematology techs do daily.
This picture may look like pretty pink and purple blobs to you. And it is pretty. But it’s also pretty bad. Here’s why.
To me, an hematology tech, these are blood cells. (pink: red blood cell, purple: white blood cell). However, they are much more than that. These cells are indicative of an acute leukemia. And for a few moments, while I’m looking at this in the microscope (alone, I might add, not with a doctor, or nurse, or other healthcare provider), I very well may be the ONLY person in the world who knows that this patient is about to receive life changing news. And if I wasn’t paying attention, or I didn’t know what I was doing, this would be missed, potentially delaying a diagnosis, or causing it to be missed all together.
And to think that this is such a TINY part of what lab techs do all day every day. Think about every time that you have been to the doctor and had some part of your diagnosis or treatment (medication, etc.) decided based on lab work that was done (think blood drawn, or throat swabbed, or urine sample given). I bet that every. single. one. of you has at some point.
So the next time you have blood drawn, or are sent to the bathroom with a cup, think of the person who is getting that sample (hint: it’s not your doctor).
I find myself some times thinking that I want to do more. And while that still may be true, I have to remind myself that what I do is important. Extremely important. Even if no one else realizes it. Lab techs, lab scientists, whatever you want to call us, may be invisible but we are necessary. We may get dumped on and blamed for things that are not our fault. But with out us, medicine would not be what it is today. Not even close. And yet we get zero appreciation or recognition in the medical community. It makes it hard to do what we do every day, but at the end of the day, it’s about the patient. And that is what matters.