The staffing shortage is among the biggest challenges facing laboratories today. As a result, the laboratory professional faces a large volume and complexity of work tasks. The need to "get the job done" with limited resources in time and manpower often forces competency skills building onto the back burner.
However, there are numerous reasons why laboratory departments should spend the necessary resources to invest in and strengthen employee competency skills. The primary reason is to ensure quality of patient care. The secondary justification is to successfully meet the compliance requirements set by accreditation, certification and regulatory agencies (CLIA, Joint Commission, etc.).
Established job relevant competencies are the characteristics and attributes needed for the employee to succeed in their job.
How Inspectors Define Competencies
Auditors view the importance of a laboratory worker's skills not so much from the standpoint of "possessing" the skills, as their documented credentials illustrate in their personnel files. But equally as important to an auditor is the employees "application" of
those skills to produce successful and beneficial results in accordance with policies, procedures and regulations.
Job Specific Competencies
There are literally hundreds of job-specific competency skills required of the microbiology laboratory professional. These job competency skills span across three domain areas, namely, technical skills, critical thinking skills and interpersonal skills. Often a large percentage of importance is given to the technical skills domain. However, the task for the laboratory manager is to clearly define the specific competencies relevant to the employee's job in all three domains.
Specific Microbiology Laboratory Competencies
Again, there are thousands of mandated job competency skills required of laboratory employees, which due to the volume are too numerous to review in detail in this column. However, for illustration purposes, the following examples show the various segments of competency skills areas.
It should be noted the areas vary depending on the laboratory's workflow and staffing makeup. Other factors, such as the type and size of the institution also play key roles in the variations of job functions within the domains.
Quality Assurance & Control
- Ability to define and describe the verification and validation steps necessary for tests and equipment.
- Demonstrate knowledge of safety issues for equipment related to the microbiology laboratory.
- Demonstrate knowledge of safety issues for handling infectious agents and chemicals.
- Ability to describe specimen collection and transportation process.
Patient Care Services
- Ability to interpret laboratory results.
- Ability to identify the use and limitations of drug susceptibility testing.
- Ability to interpret susceptibility testing results using established guidelines.
|VITAL SKILLS: Employee competency in communication and training other employees presents a strong workforce. ADVANCE photo
- Ability to make knowledgeable choices for testing and reporting.
- Ability to describe the major characteristics of diseases caused by pathogens.
- Ability to define methods for optimum detection of infectious agents in clinical specimens.
- Ability to interface and communicate results clearly to other clinicians and primary care givers.
- Ability to educate peers and other healthcare colleagues on issues as related to specific job function.
- Ability to demonstrate respect, understanding and empathy for patients, their significant others and healthcare college.
- Demonstrate positive working habits (i.e., professional appearance, punctuality and dependability).
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