Is it difficult for laboratorians to train non-laboratorians in point-of-care testing (POCT)?

One of the main difficulties that point-of-care coordinators (POCCs) encounter when training non-laboratorians is that programs they design need to be suited for a diverse range of positions. Nursing staff are typically the largest percentage of POC operators trained; however, the variety of POCT available throughout hospital and ambulatory services means a slew of other healthcare staff require POCT training as well. For example, radiology and catheterization lab techs, perfusionists, anesthesiologists, respiratory therapists, as well as ambulance, helicopter, and surgical staff may perform POCT. And not only does group-based POCT instruction need to target a mix of titles, but it also needs to take into account a range of educational backgrounds and skill levels among participants.

Shouldn’t nurses train other nurses?

Indeed, in some hospitals, nurses do train nurses to perform POCT even when the laboratory oversees POCT management. Due to consistent budget cuts in ancillary staffing, however, many POCCs end up developing the training program in addition to serving as the sustaining lead trainer. In this scenario, it helps the POCC when end user departments contribute by setting up and staffing skills fairs to support required annual competency assessments. 

For POCCs, what is the most challenging part of training POCT operators?

Time constraints are a major challenge. The POCC expects training to encompass all components of the POCT policy/procedure, the manufacturer’s Instructions for Use, and a demonstration of the procedure followed by a skills portion that allows the POCC to observe each participant. Additionally, retraining, when necessary, takes time. However, the supervisors for trainees such as nurses frequently say, I can’t spare them for an hourlong class,” even though leadership fully understands the relationship of proper training to patient outcomes.

POCCs face time constraints even when employing virtual alternatives to in-person classes or using emails to extend training, such as by sending out updates to procedures. Nursing and other departments typically expect to receive limited communications, either in a brief format such as bullet points or, when possible, organized according to the Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation communication model.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for POCCs, however, is the lack of formal education they receive in the art of delivering instruction. While it’s up to the learner to apply and retain the training, the trainer influences the decision of the participant to become engaged in the process.

What tips do you have for new POCCs trying to pull off their first training class?

First, define the goal and objectives for the training session. Focusing on the objectives will help you to select the training strategy that best meets the goal. Look at any accreditation standard or regulation tied to the goal to help select content, context, and materials.

Once content is established, use a variety of instructional tools and techniques to reach the trainees. Keep in mind that generational differences, participant readiness and motivation to receive the instruction, and the instructional style of the trainer all play a role in driving effective learning. Consider employing humor, conducting audience polls either with cellphones or rudimentary voting cards, jazzing up PowerPoint slides with self-made videos, and teaching in segments broken up by a question or two for knowledge checks. Practice delivery of the material until you don’t have to read the slides! Lastly, try to relax and enjoy the journey.

Peggy A. Mann, MS, MT(ASCP), is a program manager in Clinics Administration at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. She works on all three campuses, as well as at ambulatory practices located within a 400-mile radius of the Galveston Island Medical School campus.+Email: pmann@utmb.edu