ASCLS Keynote Speakers: Are We Up to the Challenge?
I attended the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) annual meeting
in Atlanta. The meeting was a great opportunity to meet members of the laboratory community.
The keynote speakers demonstrated, in a debate format, the challenges faced by practicing clinicians on appropriate test selection and correct interpretation of test results. The interactive format featured a laboratory director (Dr. Laposata) and an internist (Dr. Meisel), discussing their sometimes competing challenges in optimizing the accuracy and speed of a diagnosis involving laboratory tests.
Both speakers engaged the audience on the discussion of the value of laboratory testing. Many attendees responded that the answer was in the implementation of the Doctorate in Clinical Laboratory Science (DCLS) degree. The purpose and benefits of the DCLS has been debated for the last several years but the idea is still in its infancy. No one knows for sure how much longer we have to wait to see the fruits of such a degree. The profession, in large, is still debating whether DCLS can provide a career ladder and professional recognition or it is simply a solution looking for a problem.
Maximizing the effective delivery of all the components of health care in today’s complex system will help address the rapidly escalating costs, issues of access to quality, and affordability of care. Critical to patient health is ensuring the human resources are available to work in our nations laboratories to perform accurate testing. The problem is the role of the newly proposed doctoral-prepared CLS practitioner remains undefined. A gap still exists in the healthcare delivery system due to the increase in laboratory rules and regulations, knowledge, and skills needed in today’s delivery of health care.
To complicate things, the role of other laboratory professionals is not well defined. Associate degree and baccalaureate degree personnel are used interchangeably. Curriculum is similar, at times, utilized the same textbooks in both educational programs.
Non-certified employees are hired to perform laboratory tests. Current employees lack the communication skills needed for today’s workplace. Last but not least, laboratory practitioners are leaving the profession because of limited opportunities for advancement.
Clinical laboratory science professionals must be equipped with a new, broader array of skills including the ability to order laboratory tests, analyze laboratory test information, review patient records, conduct consultation, direct communications with patients, and interpret/apply laboratory generated information. So, are we up to the challenge? Can we afford to wait for a new degree to emerge to save the profession?