In January 2004, the Board of Registry for the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) implemented Certification Maintenance Program (CMP). This program is specifically for entry level, newly certified technologist/technicians. For the first time in the ASCP's history, certified individuals are required to "demonstrate to the public" they are "performing activities to stay current in their practice" by providing proof of performance during a 3-year period.
This group of participants includes a wide varity of allied health professionals, including but not limited to, cytotechnologists, histotechnologists/technicians, phlebotomy technicians, and medical technologists/technicians. As of Jan. 1, 2006, the CMP expanded the program to include those specializing in various laboratory disciplines such as virology, hematology, chemistry and microbiology.
According to the ASCP Web site, "Upon successful completion of the program, you are required to use the initials "CM" in superscript, after your certification initials [e.g. MT (ASCP)CM] for the period your Certification Maintenance certificate is valid." Also according to the site, if you do not continue to participate in the program, your certificate will no longer be valid after the 3-year time period and you can no longer use the (ASCP) certification designation after your name.
Along with these new stringent requirements, come challenges. How do certified technologist and technicians maintain certification during these difficult economic times, especially those with specialization certification such as microbiology?
It is no surprise to any of us that funding for continuing education (CE) has drastically declined in the last 6-8 months. Attending the large, week-long, national conferences is no longer an option for many of those seeking CE. Unfortunately, continuing education is a must have for those individuals wishing to maintain CMP certification.
There are many magazines, Internet sites, and various other programs available to individuals for CE, however, they all lack one specific ingredient that is "priceless" for those of us working on the front line--collaboration and networking. These are valuable tools professionals count on to gauge the movement and direction of specific disciplines as they are evolving.
One person's expertise and experience becomes another's inspiration during CE conferences which are targeted toward a specific audience. It is imperative to have the ability to listen, and interact with those conducting education conferences--after all, isn't that how we have all been conditioned to learn? Sitting in a classroom, listening to our teachers and interacting with the other students sitting in the desk beside us?
There are several organizations across the country that were created to serve professionals in just this fashion. One specific organization located in the Southeast is known as the SouthEastern Association for Clinical Microbiology (SEACM). This organization was founded more than 30 years ago by a group of clinical microbiologists interested in increasing educational opportunities for clinical microbiologists at the bench.
Since that time, the organization has stayed true to its intention of providing continuing education at a reasonable cost to individuals at any professional level who practice clinical microbiology. In keeping with this commitment, educational programs are offered twice during the year--a local state meeting held in the spring and an annual meeting held in the fall.
State meetings take place in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia during the spring months. These 1-day programs usually consist of two to three 1-hour presentations/lectures. The state meetings take place at a location within driving distance (2-3 three hours of automobile travel) for the majority of members in a particular state.
The SEACM Annual Meeting will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Greenville, SC Nov. 4-7. Workshops will be held on Nov. 4-5 and the General Session will begin on Friday, Nov. 6 and run through Saturday afternoon, Nov. 7. At these meetings, which last 3 to 4 days, pre-convention workshops are offered the first 2 days. These workshops are followed by a one and a half day general session consisting of a series of 1-hour presentations/lectures. Both the 1-hour presentations and the workshops are taught by individuals who are recognized regionally and nationally for their expertise in clinical microbiology.
SEACM also invites distributors and manufacturers of microbiology products to exhibit as part of the general session activities. Meeting attendees benefit from the opportunity to see and learn more about the latest products and technology available to clinical microbiologists. Exhibitors are able to show their products directly to the laboratorians who actually use their wares.
SEACM's mission is helping individuals maintain educational requirements in a cost-effective manor. Organizations like these can work with you, helping you to reach your goals and further the profession with valuable and timely education opportunities.
Katherine Rhodes is NC Jr. area director, Southeastern Association of Clinical Microbiologists. For more information, visit www.seacm.org.