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Inside the Lab Laboratory management, Profession, Pathologists’ assistants

The Value of One

It’s election season for this Canadian-born, postal-voting editor! And, as I write this, I’ve just finished casting my vote in the Canadian elections – a process that involved two slips of paper, three separate envelopes (“place your ballot in the inner envelope; place the inner envelope in the outer envelope; place the outer envelope in the return envelope”), and an extra survey just in case I want to review my voting experience. (Ask me after the results are in!)

Doesn’t that seem like an awful lot of trouble to go to over a single vote? After all, there are 37 million people in Canada – how important can my single slip of paper be?

Each person’s contributions to the lab are vital, from the one who delivers the specimen to the one who signs the final report.

As I was mailing my ballot, I started thinking about the misconception that one voice, one person, does not matter. I see the same misconception in healthcare. It’s not uncommon for one person’s contribution to patient care to go unnoticed or undervalued – the patient transport assistant who brings them from point A to point B, the phlebotomist who draws blood for an important test, or the laboratory medicine professional whose job it is to perform the test and report the results. Often, the lab can seem like a “black box” and its occupants merely cogs in the testing machine.

But that is not the case. Each person’s contributions to the lab are vital, from the one who delivers the specimen to the one who signs the final report. Without someone to gross and someone to annotate and someone to wipe down the bench afterward, the laboratory could not function – and patients would not receive timely and accurate diagnoses and appropriate treatments.

All too often, it’s easy to forget the value of one task, or one person, in the frenetic pace of a busy laboratory. But don’t undervalue yourselves or your colleagues – remember that every single person in the laboratory is a key contributor to its success.

Going back to my vote: four years ago, a Canadian election was literally won on a coin toss because two candidates received exactly the same number of votes. Before that, half a dozen others were won by a margin of less than 1 percent… I guess it was worth all that envelope-licking after all.

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About the Author
Michael Schubert

While obtaining degrees in biology from the University of Alberta and biochemistry from Penn State College of Medicine, I worked as a freelance science and medical writer. I was able to hone my skills in research, presentation and scientific writing by assembling grants and journal articles, speaking at international conferences, and consulting on topics ranging from medical education to comic book science. As much as I’ve enjoyed designing new bacteria and plausible superheroes, though, I’m more pleased than ever to be at Texere, using my writing and editing skills to create great content for a professional audience.

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