Sunday, September 25, 2011
Constructive outrage about Education
In my previous entry I mentioned my mini-survey on Linked in about issues the group of laboratory professionals considered as “burning”. The following is one of the responses:
“Continuing education on the topics of Lean/Process Improvement and Effective Management/Leadership. Med techs receive no training in these two important areas during their college courses, and this causes many laboratories to be less efficient and more dysfunctional than they need to be. Better management + improved processes = laboratories that are superb in every way!”
Since the survey was designed to be anonymous, I know nothing about the writer of the comment, other than the person is a laboratory professional that connects to Linked in. While they might know of me, there is no purpose or advantage for them to be stroking my ego. I therefore take the comment at face value. That being said, I am very supportive of the sentiment being expressed.
Education providers are an interesting group. On the one side, their personal interest side, educators tend to be a group prone to being progressive and promotional. As a general rule, if you want to know what is current thought, talk to a teacher. On the other side, the teaching professional side, they tend to be dreadful stick-in-the-muds. When it comes to the content of their teaching, the rule of thumb is “change nothing”. The process to change curriculum in many (most) universities and colleges is made difficult beyond difficult. There are departmental committees, faculty committees, senate committees. Everyone needs to have the opportunity to discuss and debate forever.
When it comes to Quality, with the exception of business schools and Engineering, you might think that the concepts were never developed. (Most Business school curricula will have a course which includes Frederick Winslow Taylor, Water Shewhart, and William Edwards Deming, and most Engineering schools will have curricula on ISO 9000.)
But in Medical Laboratory Technologist programs, there has been essentially little progress beyond Levey and Jenning, with perhaps the inclusion of the rules of James Westgard, which essentially are all about how to use and interpret Levey-Jenning charts. Quality in these programs means Quality Control. Period. End Stop.
That also is true when it comes to training programs for Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Residency programs. And in my experience the same is true in medical science oriented graduate studies programs.
So we continue to have laboratorians with absence of understanding of critical issues like how to reduce error, how to evaluate risk, how to reduce poor quality costs, and how to implement effective change. As a colleague said today, their working strategy for change and improvement is IDEA - SHOOT - AIM!
There are programs that fill the void, mainly on a Continuing Education level. For example there are courses available through the American Society for Quality, and Clinical Laboratory Manager Association (CLMA) and the Michener Institute (Toronto) and of course, my course The Certificate Course in Laboratory Quality Management through the University of British Columbia (see www.POLQM.ca). And I am sure there are lots others, but they all have the same common characteristics; they are voluntary and they are provided as post-graduate continuing education.
One can wonder why this programmatic void exists. In my opinion it is a mix of disinterest, absence of imagination and visioning, and above all, inertia, all the hallmarks of stagnation. And that is just sad.
And so to the anonymous responder to the survey. Congratulations for speaking up here. Now, take that same idea forward to your laboratory and organization and college or university. Take it forward with constructive outrage.
And in the meantime, contact me at www.POLQM.ca
PS: I have had a few more responses to my survey (http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BurningIssuesB). The ranking of burning issues remains the same, with stronger values. Feel free to participate over the next few days.