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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

ASCP and NCA Unify at Last

Published July 24, 2009 9:34 PM by Glen McDaniel

 Just in: The two largest national certification agency for clinical laboratorians announced in Chicago that they have merged  (finally!) 

Laboratorians have long recognized that one of the factors contributing to low recognition and confusion in the profession is the myriad of certification agencies.

Our credentials are a veritable alphabet soup that not only mystifies employers and human resource departments but even some of us in the profession itself.

The new Board of Certification (BOC) as well as the credential themselves will be identified as ASCP.  The titles MT (ASCP) and CLS (NCA) will both be converted to the new medical laboratory scientist -MLS (ASCP).

Some might see this as heavily weighted towards ASCP instead of an equal union of ASCP and NCA. Also should the well known CLS title have been adopted over the new, potentially confusing MLS; especially since the profession is now widely known as clinical lab science? Some states and educational institutions have even abandoned the medical technology/technologist monikers in favor of clinical lab science/scientist.

How do you feel about the union? The decision to morph previous certifications? How about the new name "medical lab scientist"?


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Deweykib Deweykib, , $500 per day Deweykib June 28, 2017 10:46 AM
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Since the ASCP took over the popular and progressive NCA in 2009, I have periodically received emails

March 24, 2013 3:46 PM

There have been many comments in this medium and others about the merger.  Some questions, espececially from AMT members, are "what now for us? will we be the step children of the profession, will employers still accept AMT certification?" They also want to know why AMT was not involved in the merger.

Chhristopher Damon, JD, executive director of AMT writing in the association's publication "AMT Events" editorializes caustically about the entire issue.

He says AMT was never invited to the table, but he is not losing any sleep over the slight because he always believed that ASCP would not accept AMT as an equal partner and, at best, might pick and choose those members who would be accepted by the new agency. This is untenable to AMT.

Like many NCA certificants, he sees the merger as simply the absorption of NCA into ASCP. "The consolidation is not so much a merger of equals; but an absorption by ASCP of a smaller entity that no longer has the resources to compete in the now-global certification market."

He emphasizes that while NCA will be dissolved as a corporation the ASCP BOR will just change its name to ASCP BOC. It will continue with its old staff, pathologist influence and everything else intact.  They will just have a larger membership.

NCA's capitulation, says Damon is "a  little bit like the United States deciding after several years of early independence that life would be simpler if we just went back to being under the control of the British Empire." Ouch!

Isn't unity a good thing?  Damon does not necessarily think so. "This adds nothing to professional unity (indeed, arguably it is a step backward.)"  He points out that advocacy has always been carried out by professional membership organizations like ASCLS and AMT; not by certification agencies, and certainly not by pathologist or physician organizations.

Rather than being worried and stressed, he advises AMT members to stand proud as members of the only agency of professionals by professionals themselves.

He does not think the MLS designation will necessarily "take" and sees this as a chance for AMT to capture market share.  This "may be a good thing for AMT", says Damon. "When it comes to major players in lab certification it is now us or ASCP."

No doubt an ardent advocate for his association, Damon seems determined to go toe to toe with what he sees as simply the "new ASCP."

Glen McDaniel October 3, 2009 7:20 PM

I remember when everyone was so excited about NCA and I am sorry to hear of the merger.  When NCA started, Medical Technologists wanted to be able to certify their own peers and not have certification from the Pathologists.  That was the whole idea behind NCA and I always thought it was a good idea.  Medical Technologists felt that they should be certifying Medical Technologists.  I am guessing due to the decrease in Med Techs around and financial problems this merger may have to be but it is just too bad.

Joan, , Medical Technologist VAMC August 18, 2009 10:33 PM
Northampton MA

I remember when everyone was so excited about NCA and I am sorry to hear of the merger.  When NCA started, Medical Technologists wanted to be able to certify their own peers and not have certification from the Pathologists.  That was the whole idea behind NCA and I always thought it was a good idea.  Medical Technologists felt that they should be certifying Medical Technologists.  I am guessing due to the decrease in Med Techs around and financial problems this merger may have to be but it is just too bad.

Joan, , Medical Technologist VAMC August 18, 2009 10:16 PM
Northampton MA

I have been a "MT(ASCP)" for 49 years. The controversy that stands out in these comments has been around longer than 49 years. It was once an honor to be an MT(ASCP), but now most people including medical personnel do not have any idea what those letters mean! As long as pathologist rule our field, we will always be the red headed step-child and our salaries will be dictated by them. Some of you use Lab Director as your title. You won't get away with that with ACAH, COLA, CAP, or JCAH. As a medical technologist you do not qualify even though you (we) run every inch of the lab duties and responsibilities.

I belonged to ASCP for several years, but could not afford to go to any of their seminars and do not know any MT's that could afford them. I am glad our title has changed. I am tired of people asking what my title is and then they say, "Oh, the ambulance service" (EMT). I am still called a lab technician by our nurses and human resources. So what has the ASCP done about this...nothing! They are really interested. What happened to the availability of the Doctorate for the laboratorian "so we could talk to doctors?" BIG HA!!

Don't get me wrong, I love my career and all it offers, but I am not in it for just job satisfaction. That doesn't place bread on my table.

Charles, MT(ASCP) - Laboratory Supervisor, Weems Memorial Hospital August 14, 2009 1:09 PM
Apalachicola FL

I REALLY have to hope that things will improve for our profession rather than the "status quo" still hanging on until after I retire forty-some years from now.  

I love my job to death but resent my hours being cut (to around 35/week rather than an actual full-time schedule) for at least two months, on top of only $16.66/hour (including my measly 11-cent/hour "raise" last month).  

If my employer absolutely has to do this for economic reasons, I wonder why the hospital's administration could not just keep the "flexing" schedule in effect for the entire ten months I have worked there - instead of going on and off with it three times since I started.  I got spoiled with my regular between $1100 and $1200/two weeks net paycheck and occasional darn near $1300 check if I got a chance to work overtime (including a very interesting 16-hour shift during which an antibody identification during 2nd, when I worked in Chemistry, was left by an overwhelmed colleague of mine for me to perform during night shift when I moved to Hematology/UA/Blood Bank).

The bizarre thing about this past month is that the lab does not seem ANY less busy than it was before the powers that be decided we had to start "flexing" again in July.

I'm having surgery in early September on a deviated septum in my nose and to enlarge the opening into one of my sinuses that exhibited an abnormal appearance on a recent CT I NEED my full-time hours back!

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center August 13, 2009 9:42 AM
Danville VA

I love that the 2 associations have finally joined together.  But here is what I  REALLY hate

1. why not an independendent brand new Board. Why must it be that old ASCP, that old pathologist organization?

2. Why all those doctors on the board? Do you have doctors on certifying boards for pharmacists, nurses, PTs? Do you have laboratorians on medical boards? Makes no sense! At least we should make sure that a doctor can never be chair of the Board or cast the deciding vote.

3. Why add the ASCP after the name. Why not plain CLS like you have plain RN with nothing else added?

4. Another thing why MLS? Why not CLS? The profession is clinical lab science. The practitioners should be called CLS like pharmacists belong to pharmacy, nurses belong to nursing, respiratory therapists belong to respiratory therapy. Why have MLS when the profession is clinical lab science?

Joscelyn CLS(NCA) August 6, 2009 11:09 PM
Knoxville TN

I am hoping with these new DCLS programs starting up they will have more people pursing that doctorage degree.

Maybe with a doctorate it will garnish more respect for our profession and other CLS/MT students actually wanting to stay in the field and continue onto higher education.

I believe the DCLS will be mandatory for laboratory directors once students start graduating. I hope the lab will be controlled by the DCLS and not so much the pathologist.

So the clinical side can stay with the DCLS while the anatomical side will go to the pathologist.

Only time will dictate what the offical scope of practice will be for the DCLS.

Brad August 6, 2009 7:42 PM

I have to echo Christine's comments. I think overall this is a great step forward, I personally waited a very long time for this.

Tymm, Generalist - MLS(ASCP) August 4, 2009 2:21 PM
Minneapolis MN

I have a "chip on my shoulder" toward egotistical individuals who enjoy looking down their nose at other human beings who possess less education and/or money than they do, rather than respecting them as colleagues who make an extremely valuable contribution to quality patient sue me!!!

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center August 3, 2009 6:19 PM
Danville VA

We will be under the thumb of the pathologist. This just confirmed it. How is this a merger? This looks pretty one-sided to me?

This looks more like a takeover than merger. If is was a merger they would of ATLEAST kept the CLS name. There is also 5 pathologists on the board. How is having MD influence going to help the CLS profession.

Most ancillary fields have no MD influence (pharmacy, physical therapy, nursing) hence the higher salaries. Why are we getting paid less than a 2 year associate level RN?

If we have NO MD influence and took care of our OWN profession wouldnt we have standards and demand better pay so students would actually want to stay in the field?

I had 24 people graduated with me in my CLS/MT program, only two are left (myself included) most went on to pharmacy, physical therapy, nursing. We are going to have a drastic shortage b/c their are no standards in the field. Since their is MD influence they could care less if a chimp or a human runs the tests because they are about lacing their own pocket.

Luckly I will be getting out of this field for pharmacy where their are standards, no MD influence, and one of the highest salaries in allied health. I think of the MD's controlled pharmacy they wouldn't care of a chimp was counting pills.

That is why they are so against a the DNP (doctorate of nurse practitioner) program, becaues the DNP can be primary care physicians. The insurances companies love it b/c they just have to reinburse 80% of what they would pay a MD.

So in conclusion, this is not a merger, this is a take over b/c the ASCP wants the glory. Once again a field run by pathologist, not by lab techs

Rick August 3, 2009 4:51 PM

I am wondering if New York state which recently adopted licensure for our profession will accept the new MLS ASCP in lieu of the ASCP exam as a requirement for obtaining a license.

joseph , chem - cls July 31, 2009 2:11 PM
stonybrook NY

I do not mind the merger, it may prove to be a good thing in the long run.  However, what about all those very experienced individuals that are not licensed by either ASCP or NCA?  What will become of them?  Things seem to be getting easier for the younger generations while the older ones are left feeling unappreciated.  Things also are getting easier for those from other countries, why?

John Doe July 30, 2009 9:57 PM

I was there in Chicago the night the agreement was signed.  I admit, tears formed in my eye as I saw us finally taking a step forward in our profession.  

Being a CLS for 8 years and an active member of ASCLS, I knew what my peers, my mentors, and my friends had gone through to get this job accomplished.  While there are misgivings and a sense of defeat about what we will be called and the (ASCP) that will still appear, I must say we need to stop complaining.  We must embrace this for our profession or we risk dividing us even further.

NCA did not cave and ASCP has made leaps forward.  The board will consist of 25 members of which 5 will be pathologists and 5 mds non-pathologists.  While that is still disheartening to me, laboratory professionals will be the majority and some of the best people I know will be sitting on that board.  Tests will be written by laboratory professionals, many who wrote the tests for NCA will still be involved.

Please be a leader at your organization and talk positively about this merger.  Otherwise we will lose the future of our profession, who is actively watching us and waiting to see what we will do.

Christine July 30, 2009 7:44 PM
Minneapolis MN

I know many professionals worked long and hard on this and saw the "big picture" as to why it was important to the profession.  They should all be commended for their tremendous efforts!

The title Medical Laboratory Scientist is the appropriate blend of the two previous titles although since our university program has been the Medical Laboratory Science program for quite some time we are a bit biased towards the MLS title.

I do understand how those who chose to be certifed by NCA may be a bit disheartened by having to change to ASCP.  If we are all going to be the same why do we even need to have the ASCP suffix.   Instead why not have a Registered (or Certified) prefix?  I believe it is the "registered" or "certified" title that truly defines what the ASCP or NCA was intended to indicate and it would be more widely recognized by the public since they are familiar with those prefixes being used as related to Nurses and other "Board Certified" professionals.  

Adele Marone, Medical Laboratory Science - MS, MLS(ASCP), Program DIrector, University of New Hampshire July 30, 2009 4:39 PM
Durham NH

  It seems to me that most commentors have an axe to grind.  My 10+ years experience in the lab have shown me the same thing.  I've been out of the hospital environment for several years and even in industry many our colleagues continue to carry this weight around with them.

  Perhaps if we as Medical Technologists / Clinical Laboratory Scientists / Medical Laboratory Scientists, etc... lose the chip on our shoulder, leave the victim complex behind, and promote our profession in a more positive light, maybe things would improve a little faster.

  If not, at least we wouldn't all be so bitter.  Life is short, people - lighten up.

Clayton, Industry - MT, SIEMENS July 30, 2009 9:32 AM

Hello - MTs, CLSs, MLSs, or whatever you would like to call them have not had the additional four years of medical school and 2-3 years of pathology residency which may enlighten the high and mighty MDs about whether a cytokine effect has contributed to a particular patient developing blasts.  However, some MTs in hematology at larger medical centers may run flow cytometry testing that more specifically identifies the type of blasts than merely looking at them under a microscope would do.

Thank God our pathologists here in Danville do not have a condescending attitude toward their less-educated but NO less valuable colleagues who bring blasts and other serious clinical situations to their attention!  I hope the pathologist at VCU or wherever the previous poster works in Richmond reads this and knows how little at least one of the insignificant MTs thinks of him/her!

Stephanie Mathis, MT(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center July 29, 2009 4:52 PM
Danville VA

Actually, my ex-fiance is studying online toward the previously mentioned library science master's degree and told me it is currently designated MLIS - Master's of Library/Information Science.

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center July 29, 2009 4:44 PM
Danville VA

I am happy that these 2 prestigious certification agencies merged. I followed through the magazine Advance the discussions and wishes that they unify. I am glad now that it happened. Best wishes  

Gougas Ghougassian, CLS July 29, 2009 1:08 AM
Los Angeles CA

It is very good the merge, I think the top people are using the brain to improve the Medical Lab. Field and every member in the Organization, congratulation and Good Bless you all.

Fernando Gauthereau, lab - MT, IHS July 28, 2009 9:45 PM
San Carlos Apache Res. AZ


That's a good point. It does not help our image or PR to adopt initials which can be so easily confused with other professions.  The "MT" on my business card was once interpreted as "massage therapist" by the hostess t a cocktail party. Currently even in healthcare, MT can be misleading: "MT" also refers to medical transcriptionist.

We do ourselves a disservice by muddying the waters. By the way, I havent seen the popular and descriptive "CLS" confused with any other profession yet.

Ellis, I wish more of my readers who send me email would respond to this blog. I have heard a significant amount of outcry that the great steps forward in "certification of the profession by the profession" touted by NCA will experience a huge regression.

ASCP did not enter this discussion for totally selfless reasons: they were facing serious competiiton from NCA. It was a matter of "join them or be defeated by them." The end product, many of my readers suggest, is simply "ASCP-lite" together with heavy pathologist presence on the board etc.  Others ask why should clinical laboratorians be certified by a  pathologist organization? It seems rather like deja vu.

Why not an independent certification agency like most other professions have?

NCA is being dissolved, the "CLS" title has been scrapped, the concept of peer certification has been compromised. The new titles will have "ASCP" attached. If this was a give and take, why isnt it obvious that ASCP gave up anything?

Curtis: your point is being echoed by many NCA certificants who made the deliberate, conscious effort to be certified by a peer organization, although they had the choice of being certified by ASCP.

While many people are happy at the idea of unification, I havent heard from too many who are pleased with THIS version of unification.

Both organizations need to hear from the rank and file about how they feel.

Glen McDaniel July 28, 2009 6:45 PM

It doesn't matter what initials you put after your name if even your pathologist thinks so little of you.  Recently, during a review of blasts identified by a technologist on the periheral smear (required by our SOP)  the pathologists said to our first year resident.  " This is the difference between an MT and an MD.  An MT can spot a blast but only an MD can understand the clinical significance of the blasts and that with a background picture of toxic granulation and scattered immature granulocytes that this is a picture of a cytokine effect."  

I was insulted.

Please withhold my name and workplace to portect the identity of my boss

name withheld to protect me July 28, 2009 3:13 PM
Richmond VA

I'm not certain I like how this went down.  Although certified by both agencies, I've always felt like NCA represented me better than ASCP (being run by pathologists).  We'll see if we're treated any better.  I don't mind the change to MLS so much, but I just had business cards made.  

Curtis, Clinical Laboratory Director July 28, 2009 2:18 PM
Hermann MO

Unfortunately the information on this "monumental" agreement has lacked any level of detail.  On the surface having a single credentialling organization is a step forward.   I had hoped that the outcome of these negotiations would have been a single INDEPENDENT credentialling body  Based, admittedly, on minimal information, it appears that NCA folded and ASCP will again (pre-NCA) become the "only" credentialling agency and Clinical Laboratory Scientists will continue to be ASCP's "second class citizens."  %0d%0a%0d%0aA significant amount of time, money and effort went into making CLS the designation for the "entry" level credential.  What is there to gain by changing to MLS?  Again we start at the bottom trying to educate our medical colleagues as well as the general public on who and what we are.%0d%0a

Ellis Frohman, Department of Laboratories - Director July 28, 2009 1:38 PM
St. Louis MO

Just a thought about using "MLS" as the token abbreviation for our field now.

Do you realize that the MLS abbreviation also stands

1.  Masters of Library Sicence which is named for hospital employees who work in large hospitals in there medical libraries.

In addition these Librarians work all accross the nation in city, county, school, college libraries.

2.  Major league Soccer: This is the offical United States of America Soccer league.  

Just FYI. I dont have a point.  ITs just a thought

Bill Dickinson, , Lab mgr Cogdell Memorial Hospital July 28, 2009 1:32 PM
Snyder TX

There are a couple of slightly related things I would like to get off of my chest... Just a few minutes ago on the morning newscast of Winston Salem, NC's NBC affiliate, I observed a brief mention of "swine flu" (which I believe is caused by a VIRUS, if I'm not mistaken) accompanied by a nice video bite of a BACTERIAL culture plate being swabbed by one of us "transparent" or "invisible" laboratorians.  That misinformation the general public is constantly fed by the media should definitely tell us how far we have to go before those outside of health care get any kind of increased understanding and respect for what we do.

Also, I wonder if our new MLS certification will miraculously lead to states such as California, New York, and Florida scrapping their ridiculously expensive licensure some time before I retire.  West Virginia's $25 was not that big of a deal, but a $345 (NY) fee requirement in order to be eligible to work in maybe a $25/hour starting-salary job up there is the last freaking thing us underpaid laboratory personnel need when we have a critical STAFFING SHORTAGE and RECESSION simultaneously happening.  

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center July 25, 2009 6:47 AM
Danville VA

Here's my latest contribution to my Facebook page!

"Stephanie Mathis, MT(ASCP) is extremely happy about a momentous occasion for her career field. The collaboration of two major American laboratory certification agencies will hopefully lead to the importance of the job she loves being as recognized in health care as that of nurses and pharmacists!"

I have to confess that I post my title on this blog a bit differently than the one printed on my hospital ID badge: "clinical lab technologist."

Stephanie Mathis, MT(ASCP), Generalist - Clinical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center July 25, 2009 2:13 AM
Danville VA

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