Tiffany Gill, MA, MLS(ASCP)CM, has boundless energy and it shows. The MLT Program Coordinator at the College of Southern Maryland in La Plata, Maryland, is also the creative force behind the popular YouTube channel Medical Lab Lady Gill, currently 20,000 subscribers strong and growing fast. Critical Values asked her a few questions about what’s new with Medical Lab Lady Gill (hint: lab swag!) and the role she’d really like to play in the medical laboratory community.
Critical Values (CV): How did your Medical Lab Lady Gill YouTube channel come about?
Tiffany Gill (TG): I started the YouTube channel in 2017. At first my motivation was mainly to streamline my teaching, improve transparency, and accessibility. Standardizing the content provided to students with a high level of flexibility has freed up class time for knowledge application. The videos have enabled students to review at leisure and helps me to reach students of all learning styles. Each student has “the best seat in the house” for every procedure regardless of where they were seated in the lab on any given day. My other intention was to use the videos to promote our MLT Program and the profession. If the channel helped other programs and students then that was a bonus.
CV: How do you shoot your videos?
TG: It’s just me, my cell phone, and a tripod. Videos are filmed all in one take, and I don’t edit them. It’s challenging to get it all right the first time and, let me tell you, the videos are not perfect. But my philosophy is that learning is not about perfection. I think it’s great to show learners that you don’t have to have everything go right to be smart and help other people. It’s impactful to show how to effectively pick yourself up and keep on going, thereby learning what’s salvageable and what’s not.
CV: How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your YouTube channel?
TG: It’s reaching across the entire globe and spreading like wildfire! The fact that I already had the YouTube channel when the shutdowns occurred meant that colleagues far and wide were able to use my videos to keep their academic programs going even when they couldn’t be in their labs. I got a lot of great feedback from other program directors and faculty thanking me for helping make the transition to online learning easier. During the pandemic I also made several virtual rotation playlists after I found and compiled a wide array of different manufacturer videos. That way, students can see many different analyzers beyond what we have in the classroom.
In 2020, I served as a member of the COVID advisory group for my local health department. I also helped them pick out the most appropriate laboratory equipment, analyzers, and meet CLIA 88’ lab certification requirements. They were looking to update their central lab and start satellite facilities to meet the new demands from the pandemic.
CV: How have your goals evolved for Medical Lab Lady Gill?
TG: After getting emails from YouTube informing me that I could sell merchandise through the platform, I decided to play with that function a bit. My first reaction: Wow, designing my own lab swag is really fun! We use a reward system in our MLT program to encourage students toward higher academic achievement. It is called the MLT Lotto. I purchase lab swag to hand out to students at the end of the semester who have passed their assessments with a C or higher. In the past, it has been difficult to find prizes that were relevant and accurate. So now I’m using Medical Lab Lady Gill swag as prizes and teaching tools. When I wear one of my swag shirts in class, it helps makes things clear, like look: the right order to draw is right here on my shirt.
I also want my students to wear lab swag as walking billboards for the lab profession. The swag helps to really celebrate lab students and helps make them feel valued. It also stimulates conversation with the community about the profession. Most people only see physicians and nurses as part of their care when there is a whole team of professionals performing diagnostic testing and other processes behind the scenes (there are other professions other than the laboratory as well). Community awareness of the healthcare team is a great passion of mine. The lab is the science behind the patient’s diagnosis and what is driving the patient’s treatment in most cases. Improving understanding of the how the healthcare team works together improves the effectiveness and safety of care. Hopefully, that awareness will also lead students who love science and helping others into this very rewarding and exciting field.
CV: Why is that important? Will the Medical Lab Lady Gill channel give you a platform to help you achieve your bucket-list professional goals?
TG: I’m not sure, but I’m already being headhunted and recruited to serve in other capacities such as being an expert witness in the legal system. The opportunities have been varied and I love the excitement! My big-picture goal, though, is that I want to increase the accuracy and safety of healthcare for patients. My goal is to do that by using interprofessional education to elevate the lab profession within healthcare.
During each semester, the MLT program participates in collaborative interprofessional experiences with the other health programs at the college. Each scenario teaches the students how their prospective profession relies on the other in real-world situations. The students seem to gain more appreciation for the many diverse roles on the healthcare team, but I also want to do that for professionals who are already practicing. I feel like there’s a disconnect between the value of our work and how some of our colleagues engage with us. There can be a real negativity that hurts everyone, not just the people working together but even the patient, too. Hopefully, through education and collaboration, we can effectively move into the new age of proactive instead of reactive medicine.