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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

ASCP Certification Brings Mixed Emotions

Published December 17, 2009 8:52 PM by Glen McDaniel

A couple days ago I received an email from ASCP reminding me that my NCA certification is expiring soon and welcoming me to ASCP. They even teased me by writing my full name followed by the "newly bestowed" ASCP credentials.

I must say, I have very mixed emotions. On the one hand, I feel like the unity among CLS credentialing agencies-something I have long advocated- is finally a reality. On the other hand it seems weird to see some odd new credential attached to my name. I also feel a deep sense of loss; as if a parent had gone on a long, extended journey- or had died suddenly.

I know I can choose to simply ignore the ASCP invitation and  identify as an NCA certificant  (at least in the short term). But how long before NCA is forgotten as a relic of  a distant past? When I first sought US credentials (I was trained and certified in Canada) I deliberately chose NCA because of their philosophy of "certification of the profession by the profession." I also liked the fact their examinations were based on actual ongoing job analysis of practicing laboratorians rather than esoteric theory, often unrelated to daily activities.

NCA was one of the only certification agencies run by a membership organization; and I strongly believed then, as I do now, that membership and credentialing should be separate. As someone who believes in lifelong learning, the fact that NCA required continuing education to maintain certification was also a big plus for me. Lastly, I thought the "clinical laboratory scientist" (CLS) moniker was so much more descriptive and progressive that the stodgy, nondescript "medical technologist" used by all the other credentialing agencies.

So, yes, I admit to having mixed feelings as I debate whether to stop grieving over a dead NCA and simply send in my CEUs to be officially re-certified by ASCP.

17 comments

Since the ASCP took over the popular and progressive NCA in 2009, I have periodically received emails

April 2, 2013 8:46 PM

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worldpharmarx worldpharmarx, worldpharmarx May 27, 2011 7:15 AM
texas AZ

My saga with ASCP continues. In early January, I submitted my renewals (application form, CEUs and fee) for conversion of my NCA credentials.

Yesterday I received TWO letters  informing me in ominous bold type that "This notice is to remind you that your certification will expire February 28, 2010."   The missive further urges me to submit my application with $75 immediately.

I wonder how much they spend on stamps sending two letters per person to individuals who have already applied -as verified by their own online information.

This is minor I know; but I just have been very unimpressed with the apparent sloppiness of this outfit. I am yet to have one single smooth, respectful interaction with them.

Glen McDaniel February 6, 2010 5:45 PM

Thank goodness I earned my MT license years ago by taking the State exam. And HEW exam. And the AMT exam. I am not even allowed to take any tests now.  Because I don't have a degree.  I've been doing this job for 45 years, but now I don't know what I am doing because I don't have a degree, right?

Do you realize how insulting that is?

I've been doing serology tests for decades but now I can't because they are "high complexity" and I am merely an MLT in that area. (Good grief, we use icons to do them!)

State of Florida won't upgrade me because I don't have a degree.

Back when I took the MLT exam, it was an all or nothing test.

Ms Mathis - I've been doing your job for 40 years without a degree. When I took my tests this job didn't require a degree.  Now it does.  Does that make me incompetent?

Why don't I get a degree?  Never had enough time.  Didn't need one.  And because it would get me nothing different than I already have at this stage in life.  I'd end up with one in time to retire.

Linda Terrell January 13, 2010 2:21 AM

Stephanie:

I did read that article earlier. I am glad that clinical laboratory careers will continue to be in demand. But once again, it's clear the writer did not conduct research from laboratorians evidenced by the common, general interchange of terms like  "lab technician", "medical technologist" and so on.

Also rating the profession as  low stress is a phantom of the writer's imagination. She took literary license by extrapolating from her perception of sitting around in calm, restful, well-lit rooms, with very little care or sense of urgency.

Glen McDaniel January 8, 2010 1:22 PM

Unity:

I think that's precisely the point manylaboratorians have raised, and have been disatisfied with. ASCP might be a fine organization in its own right, but it was founded by pathologists (physicians) for physicians. To some it seems laboratorians have always been an after thought-and simply a source of incremental revenue. Even now, in 2010, non-physician laboratorians cannot vote to elect the president of ASCP, nor can they be elected president themselves.

No other profession would stand for something like that. Historically that arrangement may have made sense. But times have changed. In reality pathologists are more and more removed from the laboratory daily routine. Clinical laboratorians are more educated and have a broader/deeper scope of knowledge than they used to "back in the day."

The honest pathologist will admit that he/she has a difficult time keeping up to speed on advances in clinical lab sciences and often has separate interests, frankly. Directorship has become a titular position with not very much "actual directing."

I support ASCLS as a membership organization. But I also believe that since individuals should have the right to join organizations that reflect their philosophy, membership organizations should be separate from certification agencies.

One agency -exempt from politics and trying to boost its membership rolls-should handle certification for the entire profession. Laboratorians would then be free to join the membership  organzation of their choice or the one that best reflects their interest or area of practice- general CLS, management, chemistry etc.

Glen McDaniel January 8, 2010 9:35 AM

Glenn,

I wish the ASCLS had their own certification exam. That agency is the TRUE REPRESENTATION OF THE LAB. We have nothing to do with the ASCP.

COLA has now conducted certification exams, why not the ASCLS?

Why cant the ASCLS have their own board that are just MTs? NO MDs? Are we on the MD board? Why are MDs dictation our future?

If you look at the AART, they have their own certification exam and board of members, none are RADIOLOGIST, everyone on the board is a Radiology Technologist. They created their own compentency exam, no MD influences.

Why are we so different from other anciallary fields? Physical therapy, Nursing, Pharmacy, the list can go on and on has NO MD INFLUENCE, THEY GOVERN THEIR OWN PROFESSION!!

UNITY January 7, 2010 10:33 PM

It appears that others are having a difficult time making the transition to ASCP/BOC as well, both in terms of the customer service and how the entire concept of an NCA/ASCP merger is being implemented.

The following is an email sent out by Dr Mary Ann McLane, President of ASCLS to ASCLS members today.

By now, you have probably received a notice from the Board of Certification (BOC) regarding access to your "account".  When you click on the links provided in that e-mail, you will be taken to the ASCP website and asked for some demographic information.  Eventually, you'll be placed into what is called "MyASCP".  If you, like me, find that confusing and unacceptable since this is not about "MyASCP" but rather about "MyBOC", then I would like to help clear up the confusion and encourage you to contact the BOC about the level of customer service you believe you deserve.

You are now a customer of the BOC, not ASCP.  If you feel that the website connections and links to activating your account for the BOC do not reflect that relationship or are not appropriate, you need to tell them, clearly, professionally, and in HUGE numbers, via the 1-800 number provided at the bottom of the page. As a customer, you need to voice your dissatisfaction to the BOC.  If they do not hear from you and me, they will have no idea that there is a problem.  I would like to share with you the issues that I have called to the attention of the BOC::

>1. The choices on the "demographcs page" for "describing myself "do not list "Medical Laboratory Scientist: and MUST do so before I will complete this info. Since it was a required field, I marked it as "other" for the time being.

>2. My ONLY association with ASCP is through the Board of Certification.  There is no such thing, now or ever, as “MyASCP" for Mary Ann McLane, since I never intend to have any affiliation with ASCP except through the BOC.  The relationship that does exist, and for which there should be a unique website, is "MyBOC".  Anything less than a unique website for the BOC, with absolutely no mention of ASCP membership, goes against everything the negotiators discussed and negotiated for during those 4 years.

>3. My information regarding my certification is my own information, not the BOC's and definitely not ASCP's.  Similar to HIPAA, I should be able to gain access to that information whenever I choose, without an arbitrary deadline set by the BOC.  It is completely unacceptable to place a January 14, 2010 deadline in place for individuals to access their "account" for the BOC, with a payment penalty if this is not done by that deadline.

One thing that we MUST all understand is that this process is only 2-3 months old.  (I'm still learning all the "powers that be" types of things that come with a leadership position in ASCLS, and cannot send out something that is not accurate.)  The e-mail from the BOC is actually the first one to which specific, targeted comments and complaints can be addressed.  I want people to feel empowered to do that complaining, but it has to be to the agency for whom we are customers, and that is the BOC. If we, en masse, let the BOC know that their customer, YOU, are not happy, then I cannot imagine (naive thing that I am) that things would not change. In fact, two other issues raised by me have been changed already: the first BOC newsletter had the name ASCLS misspelled on the first page, and it is now corrected. The disclaimer at the bottom of those first e-mails we received, saying "you are receiving this because you have been an ASCP member..." have now been changed to reflect "BOC" instead.  So the BOC does respond!  Therefore the thing to do as a first step is to phone and email your thoughts, complaints and needs, firmly, professionally and politely to the BOC at 1.800.267.2727, option 2, 2 and boc@ascp.org .  And do it today!

Glen McDaniel January 7, 2010 7:24 PM

Glen,

I am a NCA member going through the changes as well. After I created a account they sent me a email about joining REMEMBER, it cost $125 and they are suppose to give you 12 free CE courses and a membership card.

I am still waiting for my membership card. But once you subscribe to remember, every time you log in, you should be on the remember web page. There you click on the add my CE to the right. It will be called something like NON-ASCP CE (IE PACE, etc) you just put in the info there and the amount of cantact hours.

I was able to do this once I paid for my remember membership, I dont know if there is a alternative way to do that.

FORMER NCA January 4, 2010 9:52 PM

Are there any NCA certificants out there who have tried to transfer certification to ASCP? After receiving an email from ASCP inviting me to transfer, I documented continuing education through the ASCP's CMP (Certificate Maintenance program). I was able to successfully add several CEUs that now show up on my transcript.

I have more than enough CEUs but the website is not allowing me to allocate the CEUs according to the ASCP required subject breakdown for MLS and DLM  (general, safety, management etc). I have sent various emails to ASCP- with no response.

At this point I am totally "underwhelmed" with the level of customer service and support being offered.

Glen McDaniel January 4, 2010 8:04 PM

Frank, I hear you loud and clear. You have identified 3 big factors that would increase status and recognition- standard nomenclature, licensure and autonomy of the profession. Many of the challenges the profession face are related to various names/certifications resulting in confusion and a blurred scope of practice, no legal requirement that only certified/licensed professionals be hired to practice the profession; and control of the profession by pathologists.

What can we do in our own workplaces to correct those ills? It seems like  a daunting task. But do we inform HR of the difference between an MT and an MLT? Do we assign the same level of responsibility to both in the laboratory? Do we hire non-certified personnel and pay them less in order to save money?

Do we refer every question to the pathologist as if we cant think for our selves? Do we let wrong or outdated information be passed on by pathologists simply because they are physicians?

Do we fight licensure efforts in our state because we think it will cost a few more dollars per year, disregarding the fact that it will protect our scope, increase our value and protect patients?

Do we discourage bright young minds from entering a "deadend and dying profession"? Do we discourage activism?

Some of these questions are rhetorical, I know. But they need to be comtemplated and I think a critical mass is created by one person being willing to start the ball rolling right where they are.

I have often felt lonely; I have felt disappointed by the lack of support for my activism. But I have never regretted it; and many times I have been pleasantly surprised by the response.

Glen McDaniel December 31, 2009 3:25 PM

Glen I want to tell you this profession is going down the tubes. There is NO STANDARDS in this profession, NO STANDARD DEGREE, OR STANDARD LICENSE.

Pathologist created the MLT degree because of the shortage, what they have also created is confusion about the job description of the MLTs. Some areas MLT can work independently, some areas they need to be under the supervision of a MT (now MLS).

If I was a employer I would hire a MLT that makes 10-15/hour rather than a MT that makes 20/25/hour. Since there is not a  clear distinction of job description in some areas, employers will go with hiring the cheap labor.

They are creating a DCLS degree to keep the BS MT from leaving the field for pharmacy, PA, physical therapy, this doctorate degree is going to do NOTHING! We are under the PATHOLOGIST THAT WILL NEVER ADVOCATE FOR THE LAB!

If pathologist controlled pharmacy, physical therapy they would think that a associate level degree would be adequate as long a a MD was overseeing them and getting all the profits like they do in laboratory medicine.

This MERGER HAS DONE NOTHING, HAS NOT INCREASED SALARIES, it just has put more money in the pathologist hands because they eliminated a competitor (NCA).

I see this field with sever shortages, b/c if I was going for a associate degree, I would go for nursing b/c they make 30-40/hour, rather than an AS in MLT which starts at 10-15/hour. Also the MTs at the University Level are leaving for field at control there own profession like pharmacy and physical therapy.

I see more and more pharmacy schools opening up, and more MT schools closing down, I wonder does it have to do with the 50/hour pharmacy salary? Do pharmacist have to worry about a LOWER DEGREE doing their job?

Why are all ancillary fields increasing standards? Pharmacy -> PharmD, Physical Therapy -> DPT, why is the lab going BACKWORDS? The answer is: WE DO NOT CONTROL OUR OWN PROFESSION!!

Frank MT (ASCP), CLS (NCA) December 23, 2009 7:31 PM

Debanie, I became NCA certified (oh wow!) way back in the dark ages around 1986 or so. But you are correct, at that time  NCA was the only certification agency that required CEUs to prove continued competency. I was also impressed with their philosophy of certification of laboratorians by lab professionals themselves (not pathologists), and the title CLS rather than MT.

Now that was approximately 25 years ago, so that was pretty progressive for the time and it felt "right" to my proud independent philosophy of the profession.

Also, there were no educators telling me I'd be wasting my time if I didn't go for the goldstandard ASCP registry. I must concur with Stephanie: I have heard from students over the years that pathologists and ASCP-certified eduactors would tell students to concentrate on ASCP and not waste time on NCA.

My feeling is more one of nostalgia for the progressive NCA, rather than a criticism of ASCP as such.

Stephanie, I join you in hoping that unification and standardization will help towards more recognition; and just a simportant will translate into more appropriate remuneration for CLS/MLSs, who are among the most educated and hard working members of the health care team.

HR departments and lab management will hopefully only hire certified laboratorians. That means any promotions and  shortages will not be backfilled by anyone but certified individuals; the same  way nurses, pharmacists and all other professions do.

Regulatory agencies like CAP and JCAHO should not allow labs to be directed by non laboartorians. I know of a few organizations that have the lab reporting to a variety of non-laboratorians like pharmacists, respiratory therapists and radiographers.  Part of the confusion might have been due to an assortment of qualificattions and certifications, I think.

As a total aside, I must add that the Canadian agency from which I gained my initial certification changed its name from the Canadian Society of Laboratory Technologists (CSLT) to the Candadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) several years ago. So that "MLS" might be reaching some degree of international acceptance and utility. We'll see.

Glen McDaniel December 20, 2009 7:15 PM

I just thought of something else...

It's great to have a sense of pride about being certified by a national agency that has a long tradition of emphasizing the importance of continuing education in the medical laboratory profession.  However, one's state (if it has clinical lab licensure) and/or employing facility may also require CE these days.

Our instructors at the hospital in Winston Salem, NC where I completed my MLS training always talked about the "REGISTRY" and geared their curriculum toward ASCP certification.  NCA may have been mentioned very briefly before we were told that there's no sense in us wasting money by taking more than one test - and ASCP certification is widely accepted by most hospitals. I had no idea that AMT or HEW certification even existed before I graduated and started working in clinical labs.

Quite a few of my colleagues in the Microbiology lab of Duke Medical Center were (are) NCA certified.  When I mentioned the then very new ASCP continuing education requirement, my supervisor there said that she was "very used to" keeping up with the CE documentation through the re-certification process of the several NCA certificants. LOL

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Bluefield Regional Medical Center December 20, 2009 5:05 AM
Bluefield WV

It is true that ASCP does not require those certificants who became certified prior to 2004 to complete continuing education in their Certification Maintenance Program. However, I believe those who are extremely relieved about being exempt from this requirement have some unfortunate attitudes about learning new things, which is vitally important in the field of medical laboratory science.  It may have only been five years since ASCP started mandating CE for newly certified laboratory professionals, but I absolutely believe that it's better late than never!

Also, ANY improvement in the amount of recognition and monetary compensation (especially for lab professionals who worked their butt off through FOUR years of college to earn a BACHELOR'S degree in addition to working their butt off at health care laboratories now!) is greatly appreciated, preferably during the next 10 years and not right as I'm about to retire.  Once again, "better late than never," but powers that be, please do not make it MUCH later!

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Bluefield Regional Medical Center December 19, 2009 8:42 PM
Bluefield WV

Glen You are right. I was  certified by ASCP in 2003 and they do not require me to prove any continuing education. They didnt rquire it back then and STILL dont require it of me. So for ASCP CEU  is a very new thing. When did you certify Glen? I bet back then when you  were comparing differrent organizations NCA was the only one doing CEUS for re-certification.

I am not crazy about the MLS title but maybe it will help us as a profession  all to have one same  title. Although I dont have to change my title I will wait and see how the MLS succeeds with employers and then maybe I will change.

Debanie Stebanow, MT(ASCP) December 19, 2009 9:59 AM
Tempe AZ

In 2004, the year I was certified, ASCP also started requiring 36 hours of continuing education per three years in order to remain certified as a medical "technologist"/laboratory scientist through their agency...so at least that predated their unification with ASCP by a good five years.  Most ASCP-certified medical lab professionals who graduated prior to 2004 - or those certified only by NCA - may be unaware of this.

Hopefully NCA will always be considered important and valuable rather than an irrelevant "relic" of the past.  What I REALLY, TRULY hope becomes a relic of the past is medical lab professionals who only hold two-year associate's degrees being given the same responsibilities as those of us with bachelor's degrees (i.e. interpreting quality control when they most likely have not taken a statistics course during their curriculum; troubleshooting analyzers; critical thinking required to figure out causes of faulty lab test results, etc.). The equal "MLS/MLT" advertising and consideration for employment by most health care facilities is what keeps those of us bachelor's level laboratory practitioners with five years or more of lab experience earning LESS THAN $20 PER HOUR! Please, God, let this ASCP/NCA merger be the first step toward ONE national medical laboratory certification - and higher recognition and COMPENSATION of the important work we do!

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Bluefield Regional Medical Center December 17, 2009 9:57 PM
Bluefield WV

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