For those who do not know my history, I work in clinical laboratory medicine as a Medical Laboratory Scientist. I have been a medical professional for over 25 years. The basic requirements for this position are acquiring and analyzing blood, tissue, and body fluids to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. The name of my profession has evolved over the years. Up until about 10-15 years ago, people who do my job were known as Medical Technologists or “Med Techs”. Medical Laboratory Scientists (MLS) have a Bachelor of Science degree or post-graduate degree. Medical Laboratory Technicians (MLT) have an Associates degree and can do almost everything a MLS can do, usually on a lower salary scale. The men and women who work in my field are often referred to as the unsung heroes in healthcare. Laboratory records make up nearly 70% of the average patient’s medical record. Our work goes largely unrecognized in most medical circles and conversations. Yet, the work we do is quite important in driving medical decisions and maintaining health. The stress of the job is quite tremendous as we are expected to perform at 100% accuracy, 100% of the time, in as little time as possible. We rely on remarkable technology to help us do our daily tasks. In a technology-based environment, continuing education is critical in keeping up with all of the latest advancements and techniques. MLS and MLT professionals are required, in most states, to be certified and maintain continuing education in order to practice. The cost of maintaining certification is quite expensive and ongoing. To have a long fulfilling career in this profession, it takes dedication and commitment.
I held a management position in a critical-access hospital laboratory for approximately 3 1/2 years. This was both rewarding and taxing. I loved the mentoring and coaching aspects of middle management. I did not enjoy making personnel decisions and conflict resolution. It was difficult to make choices that I knew would affect the personal lives of those in my charge. I used my own experiences as a guide to management. I utilized the methods and techniques that I had learned were successful from the managers for whom I had worked. I did not practice the methods and techniques that obviously failed from past experiences. All in all, I think I was a good and effective manager. I always felt there was a need for improvement. Conflict resolution is tough no matter who you ask. I managed the department much like one manages their family. Everyone in the department had equal input when discussing critical decisions. When in doubt, the majority opinion would be decisive. I am a big believer in ownership. If a staff believes and dedicates themselves to achieving excellence, anything is possible. As a leader, one does best by being honest, transparent, and living by example. If you are going to talk the talk, you must also walk the walk. The lessons I learned through this experience are invaluable. I will take them with me for the rest of my life.
Quite honestly, I left the management position due to burnout. The time and mental aspects I was devoting toward the job were substantial. I reached the point where work was affecting my personal life and my health. The pressure I put on myself was too much. My self-expectations were beyond reality. I felt my best was never good enough and I needed to do more. This, of course, was followed by sleepless nights and subsequent declining health. Leaving that position was one of the toughest decisions I had ever made in my life. I loved where I worked and managed a staff I truly loved and cared about. Leaving my “lab family” would be akin to a father leaving his family in a divorce. It was painful for all involved. Retrospectively, I wish I would have taken some time off of work to recharge my batteries and reset the expectations I placed on myself. I am not one to quit by nature and the sadness of letting go was tremendous.
I hope to become a leader again in the future. My knowledge, skills, and leadership abilities are extensive and have proven to be effective. If ever given another chance, I know I would be better by learning from the mistakes I made in the past. I think its important to learn from both the good and bad experiences in life, no matter where you are or what you do.
If you are in a place where you are not happy or feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to step back and re-evaluate what is going on in your life. Do not be afraid to ask for help. You will be amazed to see how many are willing to step up and help with your burdens. Recalibrate your expectations and realize the majority of stress you are feeling is probably self-induced. Take some time off and recharge your batteries. If you have the luxury, head to the mountains and spend a few days. From atop the peaks, one gains sharp perspective and understanding. Listen to, but do not blindly follow, your instincts. Sometimes they are wrong. I wish anyone reading this good luck in your pursuit of happiness. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you.