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Outside the Lab Profession

Every Detail Matters

In a medical specialty like pathology and laboratory medicine, precision and accuracy are paramount. They are crucial to ensuring the correct diagnosis – and, ultimately, the correct care for patients. 

However, they are not the only elements involved in determining a diagnosis. Under the surface of the test results and data analysis provided by the laboratory lies an artistry that is also important to providing high-quality care for all patients. We cannot separate the visuals from the data; the two go hand in hand. Pathologists and medical laboratory professionals must embrace and hone their unique skill set of blending science and art; this is what solidifies our role as the cornerstone of healthcare. 

Attention to detail is a foundational and essential skill of the laboratory – in laboratory work, as in art, every detail matters. Just as a single oversight in exposure could change the quality of a photograph or over-blended paint could leave a garish brushstroke, an oversight in the laboratory could potentially lead to patients not receiving the care they need at the time they need it. Cultivating a keen eye for detail to provide accurate results and, ultimately, better patient outcomes, is not just a matter of following a set of organized steps. It is a matter of understanding why each of the steps is needed, and how those steps blend and work together. The data and the art: hand in hand.

Pathologists and medical laboratory scientists also leverage their artful side through their critical thinking skills when faced with a complex case that requires both analysis and problem-solving. Interpreting test results doesn’t always follow a textbook solution, and seeing the whole patient, the whole picture, and bringing a creative mindset to the process can help better inform a diagnosis. Being able to then communicate those interpretations and reasonings for diagnosis is also an art that pathologists and laboratory professionals must hone. In today’s healthcare environment, collaboration is key, and effectively communicating with colleagues and patients to ensure test results are understood and integrated into patient care plans is necessary. Clear and concise communication can prevent misunderstandings and facilitate collaboration, leading to better coordination of care and improved patient outcomes. 

Pathology and laboratory medicine aren’t simply science; the influence of art and science are intertwined. There is an art to what we do, and without that art to complement science, we can never see the whole picture of a patient. Providing high-quality care begins with us, and the laboratory sets the standard for all care teams. Blending our technical skills with creative skills provides us the best opportunity to be better – and to do better – for our patients.

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About the Author
E. Blair Holladay

CEO of the American Society for Clinical Pathology

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