Professionalism is a common concept that people are aware of but do not always seem to practice on a daily basis within their workplace. When an individual is preparing for a job interview or a meeting with a person or group of people from upper management, they tend to show great professionalism to those individuals at that time.
This professionalism should be practiced daily within the work place to show you have respect for your employer, employees and yourself. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines professionalism as being the conduct, aims or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.1
It is critical for medical laboratory staff to show professionalism because they have to converse with healthcare professionals, patients and the general public. Professionalism can be shown in many different ways including dressing appropriately, showing respect towards others and not shying away from learning experiences.
The following five steps to becoming a professional can be simple and make a great impact on that person's image:
A professional should always dress appropriately for her position within the laboratory because your image lets people know how serious you are about your work.
- The first simple rule for any position is looking the part.
Practicing proper hygiene is a step that includes having your hair managed, fingernails clipped and avoiding heavy colognes or perfumes.
WHO and CDC have different requirement for artificial nails in that the WHO does not allow artificial nails and nail extenders, but the CDC's guidelines require only providers within high risk areas to not have artificial nails.2
The requirements for artificial nails and fingernail lengths will depend on which organization's guidelines your facility follows. Perfumes and colognes should be avoided because strong scents can cause a physical reaction of a person that has asthma or certain allergies.
In one instance, a 21 year old female medical assistant, that had no history of asthma, was sprayed in the face with perfume from a patient she was assisting. This perfume caused the assistant to immediately experience an anaphylactic reaction and respiratory distress. The medical assistant was then given aggressive medical attention and hospitalized for 2 days.3
Laboratory staff should be aware people have can have strong reactions towards perfumes, therefore; non-scented soaps and shampoo should be used. Employees should be mindful of their appearance in that the patient, coworker or management get a piece of their first impression of employees by their appearances.
Grammar is essential in professionalism. The use of proper grammar should be practiced in memos, e-mails or laboratory procedures. Communicating to coworkers, physicians and patients by writing notes or messages is becoming more common, and not using proper grammar can make a person feel frustrated because they are unsure of the message you are trying to get across.
Tasks and challenges should be approached head on. Individuals who want to show professionalism accept tasks because they want to succeed and grow within their fields.
Laboratories also run much smoother when the procedures are well written and easy to follow.
Proper grammar should also be noted when communicating with people verbally because people become confused when they cannot understand which can lead them to question your results. It is every laboratory technician's responsibility to get laboratory information across to patients, physicians and healthcare staff and using proper grammar is essential in ensuring people have confidence in your abilities.
Educational opportunities are not passed up by professionals, for being informed allows you to educate others. Laboratory professionals build their knowledge with continuing education and using these learning techniques can be used in learning how to be professional.
Dr. Wear and Dr. Castellani proposed a study in which medical student were taught that professionalism can be learned with the same techniques used to learn scientific information. They evaluated how medical students can learn how to be professional to their patients by leaning professionalism.4
Professionalism is a subject that people lean and people can find ways to better learn by continuing to further their education.
Show respect towards others. Respecting others is another important part of professionalism that an individual should show towards their coworkers and patients. People that show respect towards others allows themselves to be approachable which is important when people are seeking guidance.
Laboratories are generally broken up into sections and can be compared to a machine. When each section performs their testing properly, then the whole machine works smoothly and in this scenario the patient results produced are accurate and precise.
A well managed laboratory runs smoothly when each employees has respect for each other because respect for other shows that you have confidence in their work. Respecting others may be a hard phase of professionalism for some in that people have different opinions about issues, but the main goal laboratory staff should strive toward is producing quality testing and results for physicians and patients.
Accepting accountability for mishaps or mistakes. Professionals hold themselves accountable for their own mistakes. Dr. Swick describes in his paper "Toward a Normative Definition of Medical Professionalism," that physicians must hold themselves and their employees accountable for their mistakes.5
Laboratories are mostly automated and use a barcode system to cut down on human error, but there is always going to be some error that occurs. An individual that posses' professionalism learns and grows from their mistakes to make a more cautious employee.
In conclusion, professionalism should be practiced on a daily basis so people have confidence and respect for you and your work. Lab professionals can use these five steps to evaluate the amount of professionalism they use at their work places.
The professionalism shown at work should also be practiced in your personal life because people do take note of how people act in public. Professionalism is usually always noticed by your peers and that is the type of publicity that everyone should want.
Cara Jansa is generalist, Hendrick Medical Center, Abilene, TX. Wade Redman is an assistant professor, Texas Tech University School of Allied Health Sciences, Lubbock, TX.
Lessenger JE. Occupational acute anaphylactic reaction to assault by perfume spray in the face. The Journal of the American Board of Family Practice. 2001;14(2):137-140.
Castellani B, Wear D. The development of professionalism: Curriculum matters. Academic Medicine. 2011;75(6):602-611.
Herbert SM. Toward a normative definition of medical professionalism. Academic Medicine. 2011; 75(6):612-616.