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April Lab Life Hack: How to Handle Being a Perfectionist - Every Day is a Learning Lesson.

Apr 17, 2018

The pathology and medical laboratory professions, by nature, often attract individuals who are detail-oriented and aim for perfection. Yet it’s not always possible to attain perfection.  Hear how a lab professional, two pathologists and a pathology resident tackle the ups and downs of striving for perfection.

Lab Professionals

“A laboratory professional’s best asset tends to be their attention to detail and desire for perfection. However, it can also be our downfall. It is best to practice, practice, practice, until something comes so naturally that it can be done in your sleep, per say, or amongst distractions anyway. However, remember, we are human, and only human.  It is expected that mistakes may be made. What is important is how you handle these mistakes, how you forgive yourself and how you move forward. Every day can be a learning lesson if you let it be.”

Kalee Lipska, MT(ASCP)


"As we go through our training, and into our careers, we strive for perfection in the diagnoses we render and the interpretations we make. While this is an admirable goal, it is not obtainable. During our work, we must remember to be humble, and not let hubris cloud our judgment. Knowing boundaries and when we’re having a down day is perhaps the most important thing to see within ourselves, so at those times we may seek assistance. Instead of perfection, we should work to get better, little by little, every day. Each gain may be minuscule, but when frustrations bubble up, moments to step back and reflect can show how much progress has been made, and how much positive impact you can make.”

Jesse Cox, MD, PhD

“The perfectionist traits that propel pathologists to attain their positions can prove paralyzing to performance. It can be a challenge to maintain high standards when juggling increasingly complex anatomic pathology diagnostic schemes, directing multiple laboratories and navigating the business side of a pathology practice. Today's multifaceted pathologist has to apply his or her perfectionist skills to not only areas of greatest personal interest, but also to areas of greatest impact. The art of delegation, proper communication with appropriate feedback and mentoring can help to cultivate a trusted, highly functional team. Although the pathologist's name is at the bottom of every cancer diagnosis, clinical lab result and hospital contract, that signature relies upon the strength of an entire team.”

Ben Coulter, MD, FASCP


A good friend once reminded me that “[residency] is a marathon, not a sprint,” and that is hugely important! Many healthcare professionals are perfectionists by nature, and it can be hard to admit that we can’t always do everything. Although the advice may be hard to take, I try to remind myself that prioritizing the activities and projects I am most interested in will help to prevent burnout. “

Stephanie Skala, MD


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