Medical laboratory technologists are dedicated healthcare professionals. We possess a specific body of knowledge and skills that each of us worked hard for, and that we value highly. This skill set literally defines who we are, and where we fit in the healthcare system. It’s not just about the science, however. A frequently underappreciated element of our professionalism involves a thorough understanding of the laws, ethics, and less formal guidelines that govern our conduct. This understanding is something we must polish and value just as carefully as we do our technical skills and background knowledge in order to be successful in our professional careers.
Health care professionals carry a greater responsibility for appropriate conduct than the average person. We are considerate of others, honest, truthful, and trustworthy but, as well, the health, privacy, and even the lives of others are in our hands. We are entrusted with personal information about individuals that others don’t, and shouldn’t, have access to. Increasingly, we must be aware of and respect cultural differences, both in the workplace and in the clients we serve. How we live up to these responsibilities reflects on us as individuals, as professionals, and on the profession as a whole.
Unlike laboratory disciplines such as microbiology or cytotechnology, which have numerous reference books and documents to refer to, the principles of appropriate conduct for medical laboratory technologists have no comprehensive reference text. We draw from various sources: that elusive thing called common sense, ideas about right and wrong that we learned growing up, codes of professional conduct, workplace culture, employer policy, and legal documents.
The different sources of guidance that we have, moreover, aren’t always at our fingertips and don’t all tell us the same thing. It’s confusing. We must recognize that work life situations require an extra level of awareness. Looking the other way over an indiscretion in social circles might seem perfectly reasonable to everyone, but have serious consequences in a professional context. Something as simple and courteous in everyday life as holding a door open for someone might be misconduct at work if it involves an area with restricted access. A duty to report the misconduct of a colleague might clash with a desire not to cause that person harm. Such situations can be difficult, confusing, and personally costly in various ways.
This handbook examines the principles of professional conduct of medical laboratory technologists in the province of Nova Scotia, and answers the need for a specific reference for that subject. The handbook explains issues such as conflict of interest and sexual abuse as they relate to our profession. It can suggest a course of action in a confusing or difficult situation and identifies additional resources. It explores the probable consequences of ethical, and unethical, decisions that medical laboratory technologists make.
The Jurisprudence Handbook: A Professional Practice Guide for Nova Scotia’s MLTs is available in print and online. A basic knowledge of its contents will guide you in your professional practice and ensure that your conduct is always above reproach.
This handbook is provided online at www.nscmlt.org compliments of the Nova Scotia College of Medical Laboratory Technologists. A print copy is available for purchase.
Rosemary Drisdelle is a medical laboratory technologist (MLT, ART) and a writer. She has written science articles for journals, newsletters, and trade publications, and enjoys writing about science and other complex topics for the general reader. Her book Parasites: Tales of Humanity’s Most Unwelcome Guests was published by the University of California Press in 2010.