As a clinical laboratory science student, I have come to see that the largest roadblock facing my profession is visibility. The expected increase in careers due to the aging workforce coupled with a less well-known occupation places us at an increasingly crucial crossroads. One of the largest contributing factors to our lack of visibility is the misconception that laboratorians are the “behind-the-scenes” component of the healthcare team, or that we don’t want to work in a team. In fact, many patients believe lab testing is done by the doctors and nurses because they never see a laboratorian. As the workforce ages, so does this notion. Think about it…without the lab, even the brightest practitioners are only guessing. Practitioners send blood, tissue, and other body fluids to the lab to determine a cause and diagnosis. So how do we emphasize the important role that each of us plays? Standing on a street corner with a sign is probably not our best option.

Throughout my time at UAB, I have been encouraged to “get out of the lab”, meaning interact with patients, work and communicate with other healthcare providers, and solidify our importance in the diagnostic process. But how do we achieve this? UAB has the answer and is leading the way – interprofessional simulation! I put these ideals into practice through participation in numerous simulation activities where I worked in collaboration with UAB nursing, medicine, physical therapy, nuclear medicine technology, and physician assistant studies students. Talk about a truly interprofessional team! Interprofessional education in simulation goes well beyond sitting in a classroom or around a table. We learn about, from, and with each other in a simulated healthcare environment where it is safe for us to put our skills and work together for the benefit of the patient. It is through these simulations that those encouragements came to fruition. Not only was I able to contribute knowledge and information from a laboratory perspective to other healthcare fractions and break through the barriers of misconception, but I was able to conceptualize the importance of teamwork within and outside of the lab.

In simulation situations I was faced with performing laboratory testing in real time, the expected influx of questions and specimen reception from nursing, along with, at times incessant, phone calls from physicians requesting patient results. Within the lab, all of this would be overwhelming if there was a lack of teamwork. By appropriately delegating the workload amongst the laboratorians and effectively communicating we remained organized when the situation was stressful. UAB simulations allow me to practice this as a student! I can’t think of a better way to be prepared for working in a team environment than actually doing it!

Often, we would receive phone calls from physicians asking for advice or help interpreting results. It is vital that physicians view laboratorians as allies in patient care, and implementing this into an educational simulated environment serves as a step towards breaking the stigma of the lab. It encourages future physicians to use the lab as a resource. Following each simulation, a debriefing occurs wherein participants reflect on the content and events that occurred in simulation. In each debriefing I have been a part of, the predominant comments regard how their expectations of the lab were vastly different from the reality of what occurred. Additionally, more times than not, other members of the healthcare team stated they were more likely to contact the lab after participating in the simulation. What a huge breakthrough! We are able to encourage others to collaborate in the future by practicing in simulation.

Overall, simulation provided the ability to implement teamwork and visualize its importance. For me, its value is immeasurable and provided a platform to begin the incorporation of the clinical laboratory as a universal staple in the healthcare team. Ultimately, teamwork is the largest aspect effecting patient care and requires hand-in-hand collaboration much like was practiced in these simulated environments.