Letter to the Editor: AMT's View of the ASCP-NCA Merger
To the Editor:
Since ASCP and NCA issued their press release announcing they had reached agreement on combining their lab personnel certification programs, I have, in my capacity as executive director, been asked by our members and the outside world for AMT’s views on this recent announcement, and what its implications are for AMT and its MT and MLT certificants.
In my view, what is significant is not what the announced deal is, but what it is not:
It does not represent the creation of a brand new certification agency. ASCP is, in fact, the putative “new” agency, with a cosmetic name change applied to its Board of Registry. ASCP continues on while NCA is going out of business.
It does not represent a merger between “equals.” After leaving ASCP some 30 years ago, NCA evidently decided it no longer chose to try to make a go of independent existence. NCA certification activity has always been relatively small; certainly in recent years smaller than AMT in annual numbers certified. In many respects, the resulting entity looks to be very much an “ASCP show.”
This does not mean there is now only one certification agency. The news articles ignore the existence of AMT, and, for that matter, AAB—other agencies certifying MTs and MLTs. The implication in the news reports is “where there were two certifying bodies there is now one.” In reality, where there were four there are now two major ones (AMT and ASCP) and a smaller third (AAB).
The “new” certification agency will not automatically be significantly larger in terms of numbers of certificants than ASCP BOR had been pre-merger. Many, if not most, NCA certificants already possessed dual certification with ASCP. The NCA credential was an add-on. The NCAers will eventually lose their NCA credential and just maintain the ASCP credential they already had.
What surprises us a little is ASCP agreed to a change in designation for MTs and MLTs.
Instead of MT, or CLS (a suffix to which ASCLS and NCA had devoted much advocacy and energy over the years), the two organizations (ASCP and the soon-to-be-defunct NCA) decided to issue an edict that henceforth, the designation shall be medical laboratory scientist (MLS). Never mind that the rest of the world calls them MTs, or CLSs in some cases.
This intriguing development will, in the coming weeks and months, likely overshadow the relative insignificance of the so-called “merger” as the lab industry scratches its head as to whether and how anyone might go about implementing such a nomenclature change.
How will this new credential be greeted by the lab world? Will it be a big hit? Or will it follow in the footsteps of “the new Coke” and “the Edsel” and prove to be a bust soon withdrawn?
Normally, certification bodies have to follow the lead of the workplace. If educational programs for lab techs and employers all agree on a new name for a particular profession, then that is what the new credential should be called. For now, AMT plans to continue to offer the time-honored “MT” credential until we perceive the workplace is calling it something different.
The ASCP-NCA announcement provides AMT with the opportunity to reiterate its belief in the principle of non-physician laboratory technologists running their own certification program—something the sponsors of NCA also used to believe in, but apparently no longer do.
We want the word to go forth to lab science students, currently credentialed MT/CLSs and MLT/CLTs, and employers of lab professionals that freedom of choice still exists in the world of laboratory personnel certification. We at AMT hold to the same belief on which NCA was originally founded—undertaking a certification and credentialing program for the clinical laboratory profession that is peer-based; a program by, of and for the non-physician clinical laboratory professionals themselves, and governed by them.
To celebrate our commitment to this peer-based ideal of our profession standing on its own with its own identity, AMT is extending a hand to lab professionals holding the certification credential of the NCA. From our Web site, any NCA-credentialed CLS or CLT can download and complete an application for MT or MLT, and with documentation of having passed an NCA generalist exam for CLS or CLT, we will extend MT(AMT) or MLT(AMT) certification and 1-year of membership free of charge. AMT is only providing this offer until Dec. 31, 2009.
As has already been pointed out, “unity” is perhaps an overstatement because there are more than just those two lab credentialing agencies. But more importantly, the BOR-NCA agreement only deals with one aspect of laboratory professionalism: certification. Advocacy efforts on behalf of MTs and CLSs will continue to be made by the usual variety of groups: AMT, ASCLS, AAB, CLMA, AACC, ASCP and the lab subspecialty organizations.
One final note: In the Sept. 7 issue of ADVANCE, Glen McDaniel wrote on pg. 6 ASCP and NCA “together have certified more than 95 percent of the MLT/CLT and MT/CLS professionals currently practicing.” Standing alone and out of context, this “95 percent” has struck many of us as counterintuitive and misleading. For one thing, it would not seem to take into account those working as MT or MLTs who are not certified by anyone. Also, in recent years, AMT’s slice of the annual new MT/CLS certificant “pie” (combined ASCP-NCA-AMT new certifications) has been on the order of 25 percent. This overstated percentage is an unfortunate anomaly in McDaniel’s otherwise well-reasoned column.
—Christopher Damon, JD,
American Medical Technologists
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