Lab Week inspires creativity

April 1, 2011

In honor of National Medical Laboratory Professionals’ Week (NMLPW), April 24-30, 2011, we asked laboratory professionals to share some of their Lab Week ideas and experiences. We hope their creativity inspires your team, from phlebotomist to physician, to celebrate and educate with pride.

Hookin’ with the lab

We had a disposable lab-coat decorating contest last year. The winning lab coat was “Dancing with the Cells.” Each “cell” was dancing, and the head was a photo of one of our pathologists. We also had a clothing drive for a local women’s shelter, “Together We Cope.” We also made afghans for the homeless; we were known as the “Lab Hookers.” Some techs donated yarn, others made squares, and another joined all the squares together to complete the afghans.

—Mary E. Hupke, BS, MT(ASCP)SBB

Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers, Evergreen Park, IL

Fall into some luck; spring into health

Our laboratory provides a service of a Health Awareness Profile (HAP), which includes a CBC, glucose, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and several other analytes for a low cost to anyone. We started this service as a celebration of laboratory week in 1985 and have continued at least twice a year for 25 years. (At present, we do a week in the spring, “Spring into Health,” and a week in the fall, “Fall for Health.”). Our patients love this service and have come to depend on it to help them spend their healthcare dollars wisely. Many physicians that know about our special events send their patients to have an HAP, because the doctors know that many patients would not be able to afford this much testing at self-pay prices, so they simply would not have any laboratory testing done.

Through this service, we have not only processed “normal” patient results but have identified many serious illnesses such as leukemia, anemia, diabetes mellitus, and liver disease, just to name a few. We are able to follow up with patients; and when they were not even aware that they had a possible problem, we have them seek advice from their physicians.

—Carolyn M. Bailey, MLS(ASCP)

Marion General Hospital Laboratory, Marion, OH

“Dear Labby”and lab-tour video inform

A few years ago when we offered tours to people who work in the hospital who wanted to see what happens when they order lab tests, we were amazed to discover how many have never actually seen what goes on in the lab! I think a lot of people were surprised to learn just how much work goes into turning out quick and accurate results. Many people commented that they will never again complain about the wait for lab results.

Tours of the lab can be disruptive to the workflow; and while other medical personnel understand the need to keep the environment clean and not to touch any equipment, the general public does not necessarily understand this. So, to give a “tour” of the lab to the general public, we made a video about our lab to be played in the waiting area. Many patients have told us that they enjoyed learning what goes on behind the scenes.

Every year, a couple of staff members work together creating a newsletter to teach patients and visitors about the different areas of the lab and what some of common lab tests reveal. The newsletter includes a map of the lab to show readers where their samples go — from the time their blood is drawn, urine is collected, or throat swabbed — until the results are delivered to their doctors. Each section of the lab contributes to the newsletter. We try to make it a fun and interesting read with a cartoon, a crossword puzzle, and even a “Dear Labby” column.

At the end of the week, we had a potluck lunch (which actually had enough food for several days) where we had an award ceremony to recognize staff for a variety of accomplishments.

—Chris Davis, MT(ASCP)

St. Louis University Medical Center, St. Louis, MO

Smarter than a lab rat

We celebrate Lab Week with a different theme each day. We use game-show themes as team-building exercises. We put a lab twist on game shows like

  • “The Price is Right” (guess the cost of lab supplies and equipment),
  • “Lab Feud” (lab sections compete against one another),
  • “Who Wants to Be a Laboratorian?” (questions from a college CLS course),
  • “Are You Smarter Than a Lab Rat?” (questions from elementary through doctorate levels),
  • “Jeopardy” (with different tests as categories), and
  • “Cash Lab” (with lab shout-outs).

At the end of the week during lunch, we hold a “Laboratory Idol” competition — complete with judges doing their best impressions of Randy, Paula, and Simon; and we all cast votes via text message to our own version of Ryan Seacrest. We also hold “Lunch-and-Learn” meetings during Lab Week. Each day at lunchtime, we bring in food and a guest speaker, such as a safety expert or an infection-control specialist, so staff members get the chance to learn something new every day.

—Marge Russ

QA/QC Consultant, Corpus Christi, TX

Serious celebrations

Lab Week is a great opportunity to put the spotlight on clinical laboratories to show the rest of the hospital and the public how important we are to healthcare. We have held tours of the lab; but since we are always pretty busy with our work, we brought in some local high-school students who volunteered to play tour guides. They explain every step of the process — from phlebotomist to physician — to the tour groups, and we are there to answer any questions, too. The students came in weeks ahead of time to learn all about each section, took notes, and made signs. I think we have recruited a few future scientists this way!

We have done something similar with school visits. It is hard to get out of the lab to visit schools, so we made a video about lab safety with a local science teacher for her to share with her class. This way they can see how lab safety is not just one of those things you learn in school for a test and will never need to remember.

For Lab Week, our lab employees try to match little-known facts — who went to school with a famous actor, married the same person twice, is nicknamed Shakespeare — with a list of names of their colleagues. Everybody gathers facts all week, and answers are announced at the end. The one who matches the most people with the correct facts wins a prize. In the end, we all learn a lot about our co-workers!

We have raffled really fun items, some donated by other departments in the hospital — like a week’s worth of lunches donated by the cafeteria, maid service donated by housekeeping staff members, art-worthy drawings from patients in the pediatric department, a massage from the physical therapy staff, a car wash from the security guards, and more.

One of our MLTs is a good photographer, so she takes photos of lab personnel to make Lab Week posters to place throughout the facility. She makes us look great! As a group, we also go out into the community to volunteer. One of our supervisors designed T-shirts we wear to go to health fairs, or even to volunteer at the animal shelter or clean up the community park. We always get lots of questions from other volunteers and the public about “What goes on in the lab?”

—C.L. Johnson, MT(ASCP)

Baptist Medical Center, Jacksonville, FL

Mix education with recreation

We have come up with some ideas that include having an open house with a few fun games about the lab. Players can be blindfolded and place stickers within target areas on a phlebotomy training arm (or poster of an arm). Other game ideas include guessing the microbe, using a treasure map to find lab-related items, having a scavenger hunt, conducting a mystery diagnosis game, or showing what not to do with personal protective equipment, or holding a know-your-toxic-waste contest.

Another idea is to hold a blood drive! The local newspaper, radio station, and television station are always happy to help promote a blood drive. When people give blood, they love to learn about what happens to their blood after they have done their part. Why not make a brochure so they can share what they learned!

—Mary Williams, MT(ASCP)

Jackson Health System, Miami, FL

Go tell it on the mountain

Public awareness of our profession is beneficial. We need people to recognize that we are a vital part of their healthcare team, so get out there and meet with people and tell them what we do. Have some T-shirts or hats made, and go out and participate in community activities. Hold a food drive for the local shelter or food bank. See which department can collect the most. Hold an educational event at the local mall or library. Teach the public what goes on in the lab. Go to the local middle school or high school to tell them about careers in the laboratory. Contact your local school to offer to lend a hand with science-fair projects. Be a mentor for a student. Participate in a local health fair. Volunteer at a homeless coalition or women’s shelter. Hold a testing event at a nursing home.

—Mike Martin, MT(ASCP)

Washington Hospital Center, Washington, DC

Bottom line: I love NMLPW. It is when I puff up my peacock feathers and strut around making a statement that I am a Laboratory Professional and proud of it! It would be wonderful to visit all the above mentioned facilities and participate in their NMLPW activities. Showcasing what the laboratory is all about helps bring laboratory professionals and their work into the mainstream of healthcare. Take the advice and suggestions of our experts and have a great week of celebrations.

C. Anne Pontius is a senior medical practice consultant with State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Co. in Brentwood, TN, and president of CLMA. Send questions to Ms. Pontius at [email protected].

Photo 115879330 © Karenr |
Photo 124723736 © Steveheap |
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Photo 159136554 © Alberto Masnovo |