Diane Ebel, MBA, MT(ASCP)
Being a lab manager brings a host of responsibilities and ensuring your lab staff is well trained is high on that list. A skilled staff contributes to the accuracy and timeliness of results being released by your lab. Showing evidence of your staff’s proficiency is an important factor during lab inspections and credentialing. And, a feeling of competency and confidence in doing one’s job contributes to higher staff morale.
There are many different avenues to access training for your employees. One good source is the vendors that provide your laboratory equipment. Most vendors have a training department that is focused on the educational needs of their customers. Of course, the most important training a vendor supplies is the training needed to use their products. Many vendors also offer learning that expands beyond their products into areas such as lab best practices and scientific and management topics. Best of all, most vendor training is offered at no additional cost to you.
Listed below are common laboratory challenges and how vendor training can assist.
Lab personnel competency
Look for opportunities for everyone in your lab to be trained by an expert. This is especially important when purchasing a new piece of equipment. Choosing one or two people in your lab to be trained by the vendor and then having them in turn train the rest of the lab is risky. Like the game of telephone, key information may get lost in translation. When making a new purchase, be sure to inquire what kind of training support the vendor offers to every operator in your lab, not just the key operators. Also, ask how long that training support lasts. Lab turnover is inevitable and having vendor training available will make your life easier. And that doesn’t mean the vendor charges you a bunch of money to fly an instructor to your lab. There are a number of virtual and remote options your vendor can use to bring quality live training right to your employees.
If you have lab management responsibility, you have most likely experienced the nerves on edge feeling when an inspector shows up on your lab’s doorstep. You have taken the time to ensure your staff is well trained. Now you have to prove it. Make sure that all the training your staff completes includes some kind of certificate of completion. You should have the ability to print these certificates and keep them on file in your lab. Better yet, many vendors offer an electronic option where they will store certificates online so you can easily access them as needed.
Keeping licensure up to date
Ensuring your staff’s licensure is up to date is extremely important and many of your lab staff will need to submit Continuing Education Units (CEUs) as part of the process. Many vendors offer CEUs for their training. Encourage your staff to fulfill whatever requirements are necessary to earn those important CEUs from any vendor training they participate in.
Providing training for all three shifts can be challenging. Look for 24/7 on-demand e-learning provided by your vendors. Also ask your vendors about bite-sized content delivered via microlearning, which offers flexibility and is typically highly engaging for learners.
It’s difficult enough to get work done with the lean staffing in modern labs. How are you supposed to take techs off the bench to complete training? Scheduling time off the bench to complete training is inevitable, but there are ways to make it more efficient. Taking advantage of remote learning is a practical option. Some vendors offer virtual live training classes that allow you to learn in your lab on your equipment, thereby avoiding the time and expense of travel. Webinars are often recorded and can be viewed later, offering scheduling flexibility.
Staying up to date and excited about the field of laboratory medicine
You love working in the field of laboratory medicine and you want your staff to feel the same way. Providing opportunities to keep up to date with what is new and exciting in the world of clinical labs, such as guest speakers and webinars, is a great way to make that happen.
Supporting the training needs of your staff is a key responsibility of lab management. Your vendors can be an excellent resource for educational opportunities that provide training on their equipment as well as on other topics of interest to laboratorians. Ask your vendors about the training they have available. By partnering with them, you will have a great resource to help you meet the learning needs of your employees.