Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Guest Blogger Jennifer O'Neill on Labcon 2014


My first guest poster is one of my good friends and fellow Michener Alum, Jennifer O'Neill! She worked closely on the Med Lab Students' Society with me and this year she had the opportunity to experience Labcon 2014 thanks to the CSMLS Leaders of Tomorrow Grant. Since I had such a great experience when I went to Labcon in 2013 (which you can check out here), I asked her to write a post about her time at Labcon and hopefully encourage you to head to the next conference!   - K


Last week I had an amazing opportunity to attend CSMLS Labcon2014 in sunny Saskatoon. The "sunny" part was an exaggeration as it rained everyday, but the conference was fantastic. I made new friends, heard talks about upcoming technology, and discussed current issues and new ideas within the medical laboratory profession. As a recent graduate, the networking experience was invaluable. I spoke to technologists from different departments across Canada, some working in areas I didn't even realize we could work in.

I am going to give you just a few highlights from my weekend at Labcon2014. If you want to know more, you'll have to experience it yourself!

One of my first sessions was Using Change Management in The Clinical Laboratory.  This talk by Susan McDonald from Siemens, gave a great explanation of how to handle change in the laboratory.  It was from the perspective of a workflow improvement manager, but I really felt that the advice given was applicable as a bench technologist as well.  She explained the "only thing constant in the lab is change" and provided tools and steps for embracing the inevitable evolution as labs alter their workflow and technology advances.

Generations 2.0 - Christine Neilsen's talk about the differences in the generations currently working in laboratories across Canada was filled with advice I wish I had heard a couple of years ago. The talk described the professional habits and values of each generation and gave examples of how they interact with each other.  Throughout my limited experience in the laboratory I have definitely witnessed occasional moments of frustration from my Generation Y colleagues when speaking to those from older generations.   It was great to really see how different generations operate and hopefully help to dispel those "lazy" and "entitled" Gen Y myths.  Learning how to be mindful of the values of all colleagues, both older and younger, is crucial in maintaining a positive work environment.

Speaking of generation differences--there was a big focus this year on social media and how we can adapt this into laboratory culture. Joel Riverio (@thefirstjoel), instructor at NAIT in Alberta demonstrated how he engaged his students via social media to create a fun learning environment tailored to his media-focused students. As a twenty-something new graduate, I use social media to interact with my colleagues, share science news, find volunteering opportunities, as well as discuss advice and ideas with current MLT students.  I was excited to see how Joel and CSMLS are connecting Twitter and Facebook with the laboratory profession.  We work in an area where change is constant and having more ways to share what's happening and keep everyone involved and engaged is a positive for everyone.  As social media isn't going away any time soon, it's important to embrace the
cultural shift towards it but also look for learning opportunities to educate everyone, on how to use social media appropriately.   I thought CSMLS did a great job this year with integrating social media into the various Labcon events. (#Labcon2014)

Used with permission from CSMLS
President's Reception, Lisette Vienneau (CSMLS Bilingual Director), Jennifer O'Neill (myself), Natalie Campbell (CSMLS President), and Jana Keogh, (fellow Leaders of Tomorrow Winner), Photo by CSMLS, used with permission

The President's Reception at the beautiful Delta Bessborough was fantastic.  I met so many great laboratory professionals from across Canada, who upon hearing I'm a new technologist had plenty of knowledge and advice to share with me.  It's always great to hear all the "things I wish I knew when I started" from those with lots of experience.  The chance to discuss the profession, the talks we attended, and what the future holds for laboratory science was great. And since the Saskatoon Jazz Festival was nearby, we were treated to some John Legend music outside!

There were so many other great things about this weekend, I could go on forever--the exhibitors, the swag (I'll never need to purchase a pen again!), talks about tissue banking, laboratory ethics, what's new in hematology, etc.

I would not have been able to attend Labcon if it wasn't for the CSMLS Leaders of Tomorrow Grant. This award (also won by Med Lab Maven herself last year), provided me with the means to attend and I highly encourage all current MLT students and recent graduates to apply for this award. Next year is in Montreal, QC so you know it will be an exciting conference!


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