American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
October 2008 Clinical Laboratory News: Lab Credentialing Agencies Merging


October 2008: Volume 34, Number 10 

Lab Credentialing Agencies Merging
Unification Aims to Simplify Hiring Qualified Lab Personnel

By Bill Malone

Having two credentialing agencies has meant that for the past 30 years, lab technologists and other medical lab workers faced a dilemma once they finished their internship: which test to take to earn their certification. Now, the two major players in certifying medical laboratory personnel, the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Registry (ASCP-BOR) and the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel (NCA), have agreed to form a single credentialing agency, promising a more clear-cut process for educators, employers, and applicants.

“A unified credentialing agency will make it simpler for employers who are looking for qualified applicants—they won’t have to list as many alternate credentials on their job ads. And for the lab managers, it simplifies setting standards as to what is acceptable and what constitutes competency at the entry level for their organization,” said Susan Morris, CLS, president of NCA and patient safety officer at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls, Idaho.

The move to a single professional standard also eliminates some confusion for students. “A single agency will also be simpler for students who don’t have to decide, ‘Should I take both tests, and which one should I take if I don’t want to take both?’ There are a good number of people who take both tests, and often educators recommend that people take both, making it a common predicament for students,” said Morris.

Dueling Views on Profession Converge

In the 1970s, the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS), which along with the Association of Genetic Technologists (AGT) sponsors NCA, had representation on the ASCP board of governors. “There were concerns at that time that the ratio of pathologists to technologists on that board did not support peer credentialing, that is those in the profession setting the standards for entering the profession,” said Morris. “And conversations, negotiations, discussions went on ad nauseum to try and make changes with that representation on that board and were unsuccessful.” In addition, many technologists believed at the time that they had been too passive in not taking a stand on what needed to happen for their profession, explained Morris.

Eventually, with technologists and pathologists at loggerheads, the technologists withdrew from the ASCP board of registry and within the next year brought together a group to start the NCA. “It was very important to them to have the foundation of peer credentialing from the get go and also the built-in requirement for recertification, CE documentation, from initiation. Those were some of the things that weren’t present in the BOR at that time.” However, after the founding of NCA, the ASCP-BOR has since come to support very similar requirements. Under its Certification Maintenance Program, continuing competence activities must be completed and reviewed by the ASCP-BOR every three years. “Now we see that we have come to be more alike than we are different,” said Morris.

Smooth Transition is Priority

All the details are not final, but Morris said that while ASCP-BOR and NCA work out the agreement, both organizations will continue operations as normal. She emphasized that it is no longer necessary to take both examinations, because both credentials will be honored going forward. “We can be sure that no one will have to take another exam, and all current credentials from either NCA or ASCP-BOR will be honored,” Morris said.

“This has been a long time coming and we are thrilled for this type of advancement in our profession,” said Cynthia S. Johns, MSA, MT(ASCP)SH, chair of the Board of Registry Board of Governors in a statement. “I have already received so many positive responses from ASCP members and others in the field, many of whom describe this as a dream come true! This type of unity between ASCP and NCA will smooth out the credentialing process and move us forward in so many other areas as well.”

NCA and ASCP-BOR plan to issue monthly statements updating their progress on the agreement. NCA maintains a blog about association activities on their Website.