In speaking with colleagues who have been out of training for a few years as I have, I find it remarkable how much we’ve all learned since the end of our formal training and I also wish that I had learned what they had learned in their training programs.
That being said, learning should not be a passive process and the responsibility to get the most of a formal training period is in the trainee’s hands. With that in mind I thought it would be helpful for the clinical laboratory medicine trainees and residents to generate a post on how the get the most out of your training. To be clear this is not a “What I wish I had Learned in Training” post because quite honestly what you wish you had learned and what I wish I had learned are likely going to be very different things.
- Pay particular attention to the technical details! While I know that I had to come up to speed quickly on the interpretation of test results and their relation to disease states you will need to understand the technical aspects of the assay as well. Once you become a laboratory director you will be one of the people the technologists will turn to when they have technical issues! While you aren’t going to understand every mechanical detail about how the various instruments in your laboratory work, you do need to know the science behind the assay and how to troubleshoot it when a problem arises. To prepare for this you need to spend as much time as possibly learning from your mentors, technologists, and their supervisors how they troubleshoot an assay. The opportunity for learning is there, you just have to seek it out if it is not already part of a formal meeting.
- Take as many opportunities as possible to be involved in research projects. Developing a good publication record not only builds an impressive CV, but it also builds the habit of writing up everything you do. Not every publication is going to be a ten page opus, but there is real value to the laboratory community in publishing an assay validation study that you performed on a different sample matrix.
- Build your network. You cannot possibly know it all! You need to find other laboratory medicine trainees, residents and mentors both within and outside of your training program. This network is invaluable when you find yourself in your first position. There are many ways in which to do this. Local, regional and National meetings and of course social media. If you find yourself in a different region or area of the country in your first job it is a wise move to seek out your local professional organization’s chapter and attend meetings so that you can meet other local people in your field. If that local section is not active in your area I would strongly suggest you make arrangements to meet with other laboratorians in the area.
- Read! If you aren’t actively working on a project, on clinical service or working on a presentation you need to take time to read your professional journal.