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In 2005, National Laboratory Week, first implemented in 1975, was officially renamed National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week. Special activities during the last week in April promote awareness of laboratories' vital role in science and medicine. Clinics and hospitals also use this week as a time to honor the professionals employed by the labs. Use this week to disseminate information about labs, to recruit young new professionals and to express appreciation for current technicians.
Though a medical lab is a busy place, opening it to the public for a few days is worth the extra effort. Schedule guided tours of the lab throughout the week, and advertise the times in the newspaper or on local radio stations. Make lab professionals available as experts to answer questions and lead the public through the lab; however, be sure the guides are comfortable explaining procedures and equipment in terms that children or adults outside of scientific circles can understand. Allow the guests to observe laboratory employees at work and set up a safe mock procedure for them to attempt themselves. If you can't coordinate an open house for the public at your lab, host a smaller one for the families of the employees as a “take your family to work” day or invite an advanced biology class in just for an hour.
Obtain an educational video aiming to increase awareness of laboratory professionals' role in health care, available from the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science. The story of a boy's battle with leukemia, “A Life Saved: Laboratory Professionals Make a Difference,” is a short but poignant documentary that will help people outside the medical profession to understand the importance of laboratory employees in medicine. The ASCLS website suggests that watching this film is also a useful activity for non-laboratory employees in hospitals and clinics and will increase their appreciation for lab professionals.
Mayor's Official Declaration
With a little planning and good personal relations, your laboratory can petition and organize an official declaration of National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week. Have your PR representative call the office of your town's mayor and draw up the document. This form should state the dates of NMLP week and its goals, with a place for the mayor to sign at the bottom. Make a video of the mayor signing the declaration and play it in your lab or, for a real publicity boost, have local media cover the signing for a news story. For more information about drawing up the document and communicating with the mayor's office, see the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science website's promotional guide.
Suzanne Akerman began writing in 2000. She has worked as a consultant at Pacific Lutheran University's Writing Center and her works have been published in the creative arts journal "Saxifrage." Akerman holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in education from Pacific Lutheran University.