Continuing Education Rebooted
AACC Divisions Offer Online Certificate Programs
By Bill Malone
When AACC’s Critical and Point of Care Testing (CPOCT) Division launched the Point-of-Care Specialist Certificate Program last July, organizers of the new web-based program expected they might see 50 people sign up. The program has now far exceeded those projections, with more than 350 people currently enrolled, including 180 successful graduates. Originally conceived as a way to help point-of-care (POC) coordinators demonstrate their knowledge in this burgeoning field, the strong response to the certificate program underscored laboratorians’ eagerness for online learning that serves unique needs in continuing education. In fact, following the success of the Point-of-Care Specialist Certificate Program, AACC’s Management Sciences Division will soon launch a web-based certificate program of its own, with several other AACC online certificate programs in the works as well.
Aside from the obvious practical benefits like the flexibility to work on a course any time or any place, these online certificate programs also make for a deeper learning experience compared to brief face-to-face meetings, explained Mary Haven, MS, FASAHP, faculty chair of the Clinical Laboratory Leadership and Management Certificate Program. “When you spend a little more time completing a learning experience, you often manage to retain it longer. And in each of these courses, there are activities that let participants practice what they’re learning and take time to think about it or discuss it with colleagues.” Haven is emeritus associate dean of the School of Allied Health Professions at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and emeritus professor in pathology and microbiology and clinical laboratory science.
A New Approach
Both of the certificate programs aim to fulfill educational needs that haven’t been met through traditional approaches. For example, while there is a plethora of courses and books available on general management, few are directed specifically to the lab. And laboratorians don’t get CE credit for reading a book. Management and leadership skills are especially important for laboratorians because often this hasn’t been the focus of their scientific education and ends up being something with which they struggle, explained Haven. “When they start their first position, many clinical chemists find out that they’re put in a management position and that some of their most difficult problems are people issues,” she said. “They are excellent problem solvers on instrumentation, they know how to obtain information on newly developed tests—that’s their expertise. Then they hit management and they realize that some of the problems they have to face are, in fact, quite different people problems surrounding morale, retention, and recruitment.”
In a similar way, POC coordinators also find themselves in a role that often transcends their usual lab training. For the most part, POC coordinators are medical technologists who have worked on the bench, though some come from nursing, respiratory therapy, or diabetes education, according to Marcy Anderson, MS, MT(ASCP), senior clinical specialist at Medical Automation Systems in Charlottesville, Va. Anderson co-chairs the Point-of-Care Specialist Certificate Program with AACC President Barbara Goldsmith, PhD, DABCC, FACB.
NACB to Present Certificate Program for Laboratory Support of Diabetes
Look for a new certificate program to be available this fall on diabetes testing. This intermediate level program will cover the definition, classification, and etiology of diabetes; biochemical and clinical diagnostic techniques; laboratory evaluation of long-term glucose control and renal function; point-of-care testing; and clinical management of diabetes. William Winter, MD is leading the development of this program, which will include contributions from several recognized experts in the field of diabetes testing.
POC coordinators must take their training out of the lab where they are faced with a host of new challenges. “They’re really a different type of laboratorian,” said Anderson. “POC coordinators really have to be more flexible and outgoing simply because they have to deal with all areas of the hospital—purchasing, nursing, physicians, administration—so I think that they are unrecognized as far as not only having that scientific background and education, but also as being able to make decisions and deal with different types of people. It’s a common refrain that they have all the responsibility with no authority.”
Because their job crosses boundaries in terms of medical disciplines and hospital administration, POC coordinators need educational support that takes into account their distinctive expertise and responsibilities. With little available for this specific set of knowledge and skills, the certificate program has been met with enthusiasm. “I work in a rural state, and we don’t have a lot of educational opportunities,” said Laura Qualey, MT(ASCP), SH(ASCP), lab outreach/point-of-care coordinator for Maine General Medical Center in Waterville, Maine. Qualey worked in the lab for 30 years before transitioning to the POC coordinator role 4 years ago. “I wanted some assurance that I was doing everything the way I should be doing it. I was very pleased with the program and would highly recommend it. I have two people that work with me and I really want them to take it, too.”
Qualey’s hospital has two campuses 20 miles apart, with 23 point-of-care sites that she oversees, including 875 Glucoscan whole blood glucose operators. Qualey and other graduates who completed the program by May 1, 2009 were recognized at the CPOCT mixer on Tuesday here in Chicago.
Something for Everyone
The new certificate program in lab management and leadership takes advantage of Haven’s almost 40 year experience teaching students, as well as developing distance education programs. Haven said that one of the most important things she’s learned is that people learn in different ways. This notion led the developers of the certificate program to use a variety of methods to help everyone get something out of the program. For instance, the lab leadership and management modules use articles from the Harvard Business Review, online resources, PowerPoint presentations, and practical activities that encourage practicing what’s being learned. “Just sitting down and listening to a lecture can be pretty boring, especially on the Internet, so we keep a variety of activities spread throughout the modules,” said Haven. “We also ask the participants not to do all the modules at one time. The idea is they need to stop and think about these issues—that’s really the only way one moves learning from short-term to long-term memory.”
Haven emphasized that these courses are not only for those with traditional management positions, but for anyone who takes on a supervisory or leadership role, or hopes to in the future. “When we think about our own lives and careers, we can think of many people who didn’t have a leadership title, but were respected, valued, and consulted by their fellow laboratorians. We all have known people like that. And we can improve these skills through the certificate program even if we’re not in a managerial position.”
The AACC Management Sciences Division is working on other certificate programs as well, including one on quality management and another on financial management. Look for news on these and other programs on the AACC website.
Management Sciences Division Launches Certificate Program
The new Clinical Laboratory Leadership and Management Certificate Program runs from September 1, 2009 to August 31, 2010 and offers students the opportunity to earn 12 CE credits. Each module contains a lecture, required reading, and self-assessment and may include case studies, practical exercises, glossary, and resource materials. The program is meant to be more than just an introduction, said Mary Haven, MS, FASAHP, faculty chair of the program. “While there are many books and courses out there on management and leadership skills, this certificate program moves the learner from knowledge to application, which is a higher level of learning. The activities and examples in the modules are related to the laboratory and the work environment of the clinical laboratorian. ”The program contains six modules designed to be completed in 1 to 4 hours each.
- Leadership Skills for Effective Laboratory Management
- Time Management Skills to Benefit Your Laboratory
- Laboratory Personnel Management Techniques: Recruiting, Hiring, Evaluating
- Team Development in the Laboratory
- The Importance of Motivation in Managing Laboratory Personnel
- Strategy and Leadership