Finding Home: A Journey Through Career Milestones and Community Support in Medical Laboratory Science

Throughout my life’s journey, I’ve encountered various milestones such as graduations, birthdays, marriage, motherhood, and career changes. I can recall two moments that stand out to me in which I was in an unfamiliar situation, but oddly felt like I was in my element, at home. The first was when I entered the Medical Laboratory Sciences Program at Mercy Hospital in Joplin, MO, and then the second was here recently at the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Sciences – Missouri (ASCLS-MO) Spring Conference.  I want to explore the reasons behind my nearly decade-long delay in joining the group and why I am glad I rediscovered a new home for a second time in my career.

Throughout my life, I had explored many career paths. However, it wasn’t until I started as a student at Mercy that I discovered something remarkable: despite the chaos of the world outside the lab, we all spoke the same language inside the lab. Although we are often overlooked by the medical community, we share a quirky sense of humor, collaborate over interesting findings, and engage in moments of both laughter and tears behind the scenes. Our job is a topsy turvy ride on the emotional rollercoaster, from navigating the stress of managing a Mass Transfusion Protocol (MTP) event to the elation of getting pizza from management. Despite this, we resolve ourselves to approach each shift with stringent quality control practices. Our goal is to verify timely and accurate results that are delivered to our healthcare teams. It’s a fast-paced, high-stakes environment that I thrive in, surrounded by colleagues passionate about delivering the best care. On my first day as a student at Mercy my program director told me I was about to be assimilated. I had on Star Trek socks; the room of laboratory leaders all cheered. This acted as a symbolic moment for me, I found my career home, where I truly belonged.

So why did it take me so many years to join ASCLS? As a student, my program director provided information about professional organizations and their benefits. ASCLS, the oldest professional organization representing and advocating for the medical laboratory profession, sounded promising. However, with bills to pay and a family to support, life’s demands made it challenging to allocate time and resources to an organization seemingly thriving without my contribution. While I admired their work, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t my space. I expressed this sentiment at the ASCLS-MO Conference this week, much to the leaders’ bewilderment.  I found the answer to that lingering feeling in an article posted in Todays Clinical Lab, titled What is Imposter Syndrome and How Do You Overcome It?

“The second type of imposter syndrome, prevalent among highly successful individuals, especially women in professions like medical laboratory science, entails feeling like a fraud despite significant achievements.”  “These individuals doubt their qualifications, fear being exposed as imposters, and feel unprepared to face new challenges.”

(Golab and Nussbaum 2024)

I fight this feeling every time I attempt a new feat. However, I confronted my reluctance to join and attend. Despite this internal struggle I pushed through my insecurities by receiving encouragement from lifelong members.

Attending the conference reaffirmed my sense of belonging. There I found my career home once again. Following the challenges of the pandemic, the ASCLS community provided much-needed support and camaraderie. Beyond offering continuing education units (CEUs), the conference provided a therapeutic environment where members openly discussed professional and personal challenges, shared laughter, and fostered connections. I was greeted by strangers with hugs and welcoming smiles. Various members approached me and invited me to join them, warmly encouraging me to engage in discussions spanning both professional and personal topics. Only in this community can pictures of my favorite analyzers be appreciated. Throughout my life, I’ve participated in numerous conferences, and without a doubt, this community excels in providing mutual support. The time and effort they have given to the profession can’t be quantified in one article. The leadership, though aging, is mentoring the next generation of leaders by sharing their experiences and encouraging growth. They exchange stories of their triumphs and setbacks, relishing in the opportunity to recount their shared experiences and adventures from past ASCLS events.  

When you ask on social media what does ASCLS do for me? They are about professional development—But more importantly they are a community where members support each other, share experiences, and work towards advancing the field of medical laboratory science. To those wondering about the significance of ASCLS, I invite you to join and experience the warmth and support firsthand—here, the heart of the profession beats strong every day.

https://ascls.org/join/

Citation:

“KATHRYN GOLAB, MLS(ASCP)CM, and ALI NUSSBAUM, MHHSA, MLS(ASCP)CM, CAPM”

https://www.clinicallab.com/what-is-imposter-syndrome-and-how-do-you-overcome-it-27764

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