The ASCP Negotiation & Advocacy Toolbox: What It Is, How You Use It, and How It Can Benefit Your Lab

By Corey Whelan - June 25, 2024

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Clinical laboratories are often understaffed, underfunded, and under appreciated by hospital administrators. Despite the laboratory’s clear value for patients, communities, and medical systems, advocating for laboratory resources often feels like an uphill battle. Clinical laboratory leaders and laboratory professionals often lack the tools they need to communicate their laboratory’s requirements and value to C-suite executives. To address that need, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) joined forces with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create the ASCP Negotiation  and Advocacy Toolbox.

To learn more about the Toolbox and how it can be used, we spoke to several of the laboratory professionals who were pivotal to its creation. Here’s what they had to share.

What is the Negotiation and Advocacy Toolbox?

Debby Basu, PhD, Senior Manager, Global Health and Workforce Development Grant Programs for ASCP explains that the Toolbox is an online, electronic resource which is designed to continually grow and expand. “The Toolbox is a guide to advocating for your lab. It’s structured into five pillars. Each pillar is a separate component that demonstrates the value of the lab to internal and external stakeholders,” she says. 

The Toolbox contains guidelines that can be used to provide support for communication strategies, and advocacy initiatives that bolster laboratory goals. For example, it includes information about the types of reports laboratory directors should put together to justify pay raises for staff, or to plan for the upcoming retirements of team members. The Toolbox can also be used to advocate for increasing staff diversity and for supporting staff retention. 

“As lab leaders, we excel in technical skills but are not as proficient in marketing. The Toolbox is a resource for managers, directors, and other lab leaders, offering guidance on raising awareness about the importance of clinical laboratories in healthcare and demonstrating the overall value that clinical labs bring to the healthcare system.” says Ihab Abumuhor, MS, MLS(ASCP), SBB, MSHCA, Director of Laboratory Services at Torrance Memorial. Mr. Abumuhor was pivotal to the development of the Toolbox. 

The five pillars

The Negotiation and Advocacy Toolbox is currently structured upon five pillars. Laboratories may benefit from using some or all of the tools within the pillars, based upon their individualized needs. They can also use the pillars as inspiration for generating their own tools. 

“Laboratory professionals need to get better at telling our story. You need data to tell a story well. The Toolkit’s pillars include ideas and actionable resources on how to acquire and present metrics that justify the acquisition of resources that support laboratory growth,” says Aaron Odegard, MS, MLS(ASCP)CMSMCM. Mr Odegard was an integral part of the Toolbox’s development team. “When Edna Garcia, MPH, Senior Director, Scientific Engagement and Research at ASCP, first reached out to me about the Toolbox, my first thought was wow, I need to be a part of this,” he says. 

Here  is a breakdown of each pillar:

  • Pillar 1: Promoting Lab Visibility—provides empowerment tools that inspire interest in the laboratory, both internally and externally
  • Pillar 2: People & Culture—support for creating and maintaining your laboratory dream team
  • Pillar 3: Quality—connects laboratory results and needs to patient care and outcomes
  • Pillar 4: Lab Finance—promotes confidence in understanding and communicating information about your laboratory’s financials
  • Pillar 5: Service & Growth—how-to heighten laboratory growth and level of excellence 

Putting the Toolbox into action

Christina Nickel, MHA, MLS(ASCP)CM, CPHQ, helped develop the Toolbox and shared many of the tools used at Bryan Medical Center, where she is Laboratory Director. “In my workplace, we already have a lot of tools and resources. Even so, I found that the Negotiation and Advocacy Toolbox has given me more ideas and facts that I can use for strategic planning and to support communication with C-suite execs. There are a lot of lab leaders out there who haven’t learned how to communicate effectively with hospital administrators. The Toolbox helps Lab leaders be more successful by focusing on information that is important and relatable to senior leaders,” she explains.

Mr.  Abumuhor uses the Toolbox at Torrance Memorial to showcase his laboratory’s value in terms of quality, financial impact, operational efficiencies, and other capabilities to senior administrators. “We're not just a cost center; we're also a revenue generator. We're not merely running a lab, but also a business," he explains. "Most medical decisions rely on laboratory results, and a lot of work happens before those results reach the patient. The clinical lab touches almost every department in the hospital and contributes to nearly 80% of any electronic health record (EHR) through lab results. The lab's contributions are integral to many hospital process improvements, including reducing length of stay, and assisting physicians in making treatment decisions for cancer, diabetes, cardiac conditions, population health, test utilization, and more. Effectively communicating this information to C-suite executives is crucial for building trust, which is essential when requesting resources like state-of-the-art equipment," he adds. 

Some of the tools Mr. Odegard recommends putting into action include easy-to-generate team building strategies. “We have a lab bulletin board that is centered around monthly themes. It gives our team the opportunity to showcase their accomplishments as well as their kids, pets, and other braggables,” he says. “Labs can use it to generate diversity-building tools, like hanging up a map of the globe with pins where each team member is from, or by hosting an international potluck.  These are all activities meant to strengthen the people and culture that compose our laboratories.”    

Next steps: Getting you laboratory involved

ASCP is launching virtual office hours for group conversations about the Toolbox via Zoom. These sessions will be used to answer questions, teach usage, and provide support for the implementation of Toolbox resources. Laboratory personnel are urged to register, no matter what their current position or title. 

“The Toolbox is a living document that professionals in our field can continuously add to,” says Mr. Odegard. He urges people to bring their ideas for tools with them to their calls, for discussion and possible inclusion. “The great thing about the Toolbox is it’s a starting point. We need everyone’s input. Every big  journey is composed of small steps - be one of these valuable steps with us on our journey,” he explains.

“We’ve been working on the Toolbox for close to two years. It’s been a labor of love. Now, we’re looking forward to getting the word out about it, so our field can benefit,” says Dr. Basu. She’s also looking forward to hearing success stories about Toolbox implementation from lab leaders. “We can’t wait to hear how our members and laboratory leaders were able to use these tools to make positive change within their own laboratory settings and centers. That will be so fulfilling for everyone involved in this work,” she adds.

To learn more about the Toolbox and to add your voice to its ongoing implementation and improvement, register for virtual office hours here.

This resource was made possible by Cooperative Agreement NU47OE000107 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of ASCP and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC. 



Corey Whelan

Patient Advocate and Freelance Writer