American Association for Clinical Chemistry
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CPOCT Division Launches Certificate Program

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CPOCT Division Launches Certificate Program
Courses Aim to Provide Useful Skills
By Deborah Levenson

CPOCT Program

Given the dramatic increase in near patient testing, the role of the POC specialist in ensuring quality management of testing outside the laboratory is increasingly critical to patient care. But too often, POC coordinators assume their responsibilities without formal training, contact with others doing similar jobs, and the respect of their peers outside of the lab. A new certificate program—to be announced at tomorrow’s POC Forum—aims to change that situation.

Beginning this fall, the AACC’s Critical and Point of Care Testing Division will offer a comprehensive curriculum composed of eight online courses—complete with reading assignments and quizzes—taught by accomplished and respected faculty. While POC coordinators may take single courses for continuing education credit, the full certificate requires successful completion of all eight courses and passage of a comprehensive exam after they have been completed, according to Marcy Anderson, MS, MT, ASCP, who along with Barbara Goldsmith, PhD, is chairing the certificate program. Anderson is Senior Clinical Specialist at Medical Automation Systems in Charlottesville, Va. Goldsmith is AACC President Elect and Vice President of Laboratory Services at Caritas Christi Health Care, and Director of Laboratory Services at EXCELL Clinical Laboratories/St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston.

Certificate program students have 12 months to complete all eight courses, which carry 2 credits each and cost about $95. The courses cover regulations, policies and procedures, connectivity, quality management, education and training, instrumentation validation and selection, administration, and communication (See Box). The CPOCT Division will award the first POC Specialist certificates at AACC’s 2009 Annual Meeting in Chicago.

AACC is the only organization to offer a certificate based on coursework and passing tests to POC coordinators, noted both Anderson and Marcia Zucker, PhD, who is a member of the program faculty and its organizing committee. POC coordinators need not be AACC members to participate. Program participants—both those who are getting certificates or just taking single courses—can communicate with faculty and other students through a dedicated listserv that focuses on the certificate program. Anderson hopes the listserv will foster a sense of community that most POC coordinators lack. “The listserv is a way to communicate with other POC coordinators, network, and get ideas that enhance what people are learning in the courses,” she explained.

POC Specialist Certificate Program
Eight courses will be available

Regulations: Explains the distinctions between regulations and guidelines for POC set by the primary U.S. agencies.

Policies and Procedures: Details how to structure procedures in a POC testing program, define them, and document them.

Connectivity and IT: Explains the increasing importance of proper patient identification and operator tracking via use of bar-coded applications, as well as the complexities of data flow that impacts POCT information management.

Quality Management: Explores components of a comprehensive quality plan that ensures all test results are accurate and medically relevant. That plan covers correct patient identification, proper specimen collection, specimen labeling, specimen handling, the examination/testing process, result interpretation, limitations of procedure, reporting of result, quality control, PT, and accreditation.

Education and Training: Details the characteristics that influence learning and the principles of effective training.

Instrumentation Selection and Validation: Explains the available options for POC testing and the steps to take in validating technologies before introducing them into clinical settings.

Administration: Sets out the role a coordinator should play in the hospital, and the necessary leadership and supervision skills.

Communication: Proposes effective tools for dealing with different personalities and types of healthcare professionals within an institution.

Gaining Respect for a Complex Job

The program will go a long way toward giving both POC coordinators and other laboratory staff the respect they deserve. “The program will bring recognition to POC coordinators from those in their field and others in the hospital who may not understand what they do. I think the certificate will help laboratory medicine in general because no one understands what the lab does, and the POC coordinator is the face of the lab to the rest of the institution,” explained Anderson.

Making staff outside of the lab understand the importance of complying with CLIA regulations and standards from CAP and the Joint Commission is a crucial task for any POC coordinator. In fact, it’s compliance that drove the creation of POC jobs in the first place, according to Zucker. “People were given the job of running POC because regulators began including POC issues in their evaluation of institutions in the late 1990s.” Back then, core labs sometimes did not even know that certain tests were being done on the floor when inspectors mentioned them. “Glucose meters have been around forever, but they are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tests being done outside the core lab,” said Zucker, ticking off a long list of common tests, such as coagulation monitoring during bypass surgery, which she noted has been occurring since 1969. “These tests were overlooked. They weren’t considered lab tests despite being used for diagnosis and immediate treatment, until regulators considered them as such.”

POC Forum Examines “Lean” and Quality Indicators

The utility of the “Lean” process in mapping POC, critical care testing, and quality indicators is the focus of the annual POC Coordinators Forum, scheduled for Thurs., July 31 at 8 a.m. in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Jay Jones, PhD, Director of Chemistry and Regional Laboratories at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa., will discuss Lean principles, while Brenda Franks, POC Coordinator at Nebraska Methodist Health System in Omaha, Neb., will address how to use a quality improvement plan and specific indicators to achieve compliance and improve care.

Tickets may be purchased at the conference registration area or at the door.

But years later, hospitals, and to a certain extent, departments of laboratory medicine, don’t understand how complex the setup and management of POC can be, Zucker noted. Many coordinators have other responsibilities and may be bench technicians or even nurses who have received no formal training regarding POC. “These people have big responsibilities, but often lack corresponding authority,” she explained. “The goal of the program is to take the diverse requirements for a POC coordinator and give them the tools, resources, and training they need, especially if they haven’t been prepared for it, so they can gain the expertise that brings respect.”

Anderson hopes that eventually the POC certificate program will spur more specialized certifications that focus on specific types of common POC tests, such as cardiac markers, urinalysis, and blood gases.

Noting that the cost of the program might lead many POC coordinators to seek their institutions’ aid in paying for the certification, Zucker suggested a strategy for getting reimbursed. “You could argue: If it was your parent in the hospital, wouldn’t you want POC testing done in a manner that optimizes their care? That is what this program is all about.”