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Outside the Lab Profession

Sharing the Salt

After a fascinating visit to a central London pathology laboratory (see our feature on page 16), The Pathologist’s content director and I dined in a train station restaurant before our respective journeys home. Evidently, our table had been hastily separated from the one next to it; we shared a number, a napkin holder, and salt and pepper grinders – all of which sat on the other table.

“Excuse me… Could I please borrow the salt?”

Over the course of the evening, we shared the single salt and pepper grinders back and forth across the tables a couple of times, growing somewhat well-acquainted with our neighbors. By the end of the meal, they were fans of The Pathologist, despite never having read a single word of its content. We had learned more about their lives, too; they had spent the day at a hospital just around the corner from – and with close pathology ties to – Great Ormond Street. For all we knew, the laboratory medicine professionals who had spent that day speaking to us might have spent the next looking at samples from the couple at the other table.

Who knows what you might learn if you strike up a conversation – or what you might receive if you’re open to sharing? For us, it was a pleasant conversation and some seasoning for our food. For a healthcare professional, it could be a crucial piece of medical history or evidence that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. And for a patient, it could be comfort, reassurance, or the ability to make a more informed decision about their own treatment.

The lines of communication have to be open. It’s something we hear again and again – so why, if it’s such a universally acknowledged fact, is it difficult for people to share information? Pathologist are perhaps concerned that every minute spent away from the laboratory is another diagnosis that must be delayed. Clinicians may be unaware of the benefits pathologist contact can provide. And patients could be hesitant to request to speak to a pathologist – they might not even be aware that it’s an option.

So what can we do to help pave the way to better interaction and engagement? It might be as simple as opening your office door (1), or as involved as publishing a regular newsletter about your work (2). It might mean adding your telephone number or email address to patient reports so that you can be contacted directly. It might mean something no one has thought of yet – an innovative way of starting the conversation.

Do you have a suggestion? If so, please do get in touch ([email protected]) and tell us more about it. Let’s share some salt and start a conversation of our own…

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