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Our lab week lasted a month; an imaginative Lab Awareness Month boosted staff morale and opened new channels of communication with other hospital departments.

What started out as a quick project to improve relations with the nursing staff grew into Lab Awareness Month at our institution. The broader public relations effort gave laboratory personnel a healthy dose of prestige and recognition from fellow professionals and the public--with a good measure of fun in the bargain.

The idea evolved from our plans to hold a four-hour orientation course, introducing new members of the nursing staff to lab policies and procedures. We hoped it would phase out some of the communication problems that bedeviled our two staffs, such as unnecessary phone calls and improperly filled-out requisitions.

Orientation was fine, the director of staff development for nursing said, but how about the hundreds of nurses, ward clerks, and other personnel already on staff? She suggested sending out weekly flyers during a designated month, to highlight the various laboratory departments.

We had just the month: A few promotional activities were already planned for National Medical Laboratory Week in April. Why not dedicate all 30 days to the lab's vital role in delivering quality care and, at the same time, promote better interaction with nursing and other hospital departments?

It was only January, so we had plenty of time to plan a full slate of activities. After gaining the approval of our chief pathologist, we formed a laboratory staff committee including two medical technologists, two phlebotomists, one blood bank technician, a histology technician, a medical secretary, and the chief pathologist. The two of us, as education coordinators, served as co-chairmen.

Our goals were to develop an appropriate theme, generate ideas to promote Lab Awareness Month, design a series of informative flyers, plan a project to involve hospital personnel, stimulate enthusiasm among co-workers, and win support from administration and others.

The National Medical Laboratory Week planning guide supplied by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists offered many good suggestions on where to start. The idea of a "campaign button" was appealing, for example, but we wanted one that could be worn all year long.

Designing the button was our first project. All Committee members submitted proposals and voted on them. The wording we chose, "Lab: People Helping People," Also provided us with a theme for the month's activities. With some help from the hospital's graphic artist, we sent a final design to a vendor. Our motto, People Helping People, appeared throughout the month in poster displays in cafeteria entrances, lobbies, and waiting areas. These displays also included large photographs of employees working in all areas of the lab.

Producing the educational flyers was one of our most important goals, since we hoped they would engender some lasting improvement in relations with the nursing floors and other departments. We produced a general outline of information that would be helpful to nurses and interesting to anyone else who was curious about laboratory activities.

A different Lab Awareness Brief--LAB for short--was planned for each major section of the laboratory, and the head technologist in each section reviewed the information for accuracy before final printing. The briefs all followed the same five-part format: Define the department, define its most common tests, list other routine tests performed there, list turnaround times for routine and Stat test requests, and provide a reference to our newly revised lab policy manual for further information. A sample Lab Awareness Brief is shown in Figure I. Each week in April, a new LAB was sent out through the hospital's mail system to all nursing floors and medical services.

We also wanted to actively involve employees throughout our 800-bed multiunit hospital system, which consists of a South Side and North Side facility and a pediatric hospital. So we had to plan an event at each locale. We decided to hold laboratory tours at South Side, site of a small auxiliary laboratory; tours of our main lab at North Side would have been logistically difficult and disruptive. An educational open house was planned for the other two units.

Lab tours at South Side Hospital happened to coincide with the start of full-swing operations in the new toxicology and therapeutic drug monitoring department and a cosmetic remodeling of our other laboratory departments. Hospital employees were invited to see the new section and register for a door prize. About 75 of them walked through, and 20 accepted our bonus offer of a free blood typing. Our medical technology students pitched in as tour escorts.

The open house was held in a lecture hall at our pathology education center. Each department created a display explaining its activites, with contributions ranging from high-tech to humorous. Laboratory employees at the displays answered questions and provided insight into their jobs. MT students set up a fund-raising booth tied into the approaching Easter holiday. Visitors could buy a chance at guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar and win Easter candy as a prize. Proceeds were donated to the pediatric hospital.

In keeping with the seasonal theme, two students rented bunny costumes and went through both hospitals inviting employees to the open house. Some 200 attended, thanks in part to bunny power.

The tours and open house gave us a great infusion professionals realize that their image, even among colleagues, consists of a technician drawing blood. It was gratifying to see how many of our fellow hospital employees, from maids to nursing supervisors, were interested enough in our work to take a closer look.

We wanted to extend our promotion beyond the hospital staff to the community at large. During National Medical Laboratory Week, the heart of our lab month, we set up a big display in the main lobby, rotating posters and displays from the open house. We offered free blood typings here, too, and the high response rate surprised us. About 80 employees and visitors had their blood drawn and typed.

To keep up momentum in the third week of Lab Month, we planned some offbeat contests for laboratory employees, with prizes donated by various organizations. Anyone could enter "Count the Stoppers," a lab version of the jelly-bean guessing game, while the "Name of Stain" contest was geared more for the technical staff. Our "Name the Stain" centerpiece was an old lab coat festooned with a dozen numbered stains, from iodine and blood to eosin and Wright's stain. "Hollywood Squares" it wasn't, but it certainly was diverting--and no one, by the way, got a perfect score.

On a more serious note, we also planned to have a prominent speaker address our monthly continuing education program. One of our pathologists arranged for James W. Sharp, M.D., an MLO author and expert on lab trends, to share his thoughts on the future of the hospital laboratory.

We wrapped up the Lab Awareness activities by serving a special breakfast to the entire lab staff at the end of the month. Pizza and soft drinks were substituted on the 3-to-11 shift.

We may not have gotten every last one of our 220 lab employees into the act, but we involved about 95 per cent of them. Months ago, many staff members began asking what we have in mind for this April. It was encouraging to see all the laboratory departments cooperate on posters and displays and to note an upsurge of professional pride.

Our efforts to promote better communication within the hospital have also shown some positive results. We received about 20 requests for extra copies of the Lab Awareness Briefs from nurses and dieticians, among others. And relations between the laboratory and the nursing department have continued to improve, helped along by our orientation program and they monthly meetings of our nursing/lab liaison committee.

We did some learning ourselves in the process of planning the activities. To make the whole show run smoothly, we had to seek help from the administration, housekeeping, purchasing, and community relations departments. We would give this advice to anyone planning a similar program: Start planning early, and pay close attention to detail. Check safety regulations, obtain approval for special projects in plenty of time, and think each step through in advance. If you plan to set up microscopes for a microbiology lobby display, for example, make sure sufficiently long extension cords are available.

At this writing, we haven't finalized our plans for this year, but we would like to distribute LAB updates describing new procedures, techniques, services, and instruments acquired since our last Lab Awareness Month. We also hope to recreate the most enjoyable feature of our promotion campaign--the rare chance for laboratory professionals to step into the spotlight.
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Author:Trevelen, Sandra; Lepore, Sally
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Apr 1, 1985
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