Saturday, November 19, 2011

Medical Leadership and Quality

An interesting day in Quality teaching, It came together in an interesting way.

I had a lunch time seminar to talk Quality to a small group of laboratory medicine residents.  What was interesting was that for the first time that I can recall, half of the group had already taken our 20 week course in Laboratory Quality Management (see and the other half had not.  So rather than the usual presentation where I talk and engage others to participate, I sat back and let the two course certificate holders take the lead.  All I had to do was add some new knowledge from current research and provide some additional perspectives on bringing knowledge together with building a culture for Quality.

The conversation and discussion by the informed group was active and all in context.  It was clear that not only had they taken the course, but they had taken the time to absorb the information and were putting the knowledge into practice.  There was a good discussion about how to promote the idea that residents have a role and responsibility of working within their laboratory on improvement projects.  They provided a list of participation opportunities that residents should consider:
  • ·        Reading and reviewing SOPs in detail
  • ·        Participating in Accreditation preparation
  • ·        Monitoring proficiency testing performance trends
  • ·        Providing presentations
  • ·        Participating in internal bench audits
  • ·        Taking on Quality oriented projects

It was a real treat, and was for me a key affirmation that we are starting to have a tangible impact on the knowledge and focus of resident education.  We are making a difference. 

When I left the teaching session I went to a meeting for planning the process of moving our Masters program through the morass of university requirements and approvals.  One of the concerns and complications that came up was that a senior medical laboratorian has had conversations that suggest he may be opposed to our Masters program because it is his belief that a Masters to train laboratory quality managers would create an intrusion in the role of the medical laboratory lead. 

It was a one-step-forward and one-step-back afternoon.

What interested me here was how much this one-step-back represented a point of view that so inconsistent with fact and reality.  It suggested that this person’s perception that Quality managers were by definition not medical laboratorians; Becoming knowledgeable about Quality was something that only technologists or administrator types did.  Well that’s what we call obsolete thinking on all sorts of levels.  It denigrates both Quality and all the laboratory professionals that are committed to making laboratories work more effectively through having better Quality management.  

And it is inconsistent with the facts.  In my course there are several pathologists from a number of countries, including Canada, that have taken our course because they see advantage both to themselves and to their laboratories for them to learn to become Quality leaders.  More importantly every year for the last 4 years we have had medical laboratory residents taking the course and in addition we provide a quality seminar series for residents.  These men and women will walk into their first professional positions as pathologists and medical laboratorians far better trained and far more capable to providing laboratory leadership. 

Increasingly we are seeing working professionals seeking out opportunities for supplemental education as part of the own improvement strategy.  Some are doing Masters of Public Health, others are doing Masters of Health Administration and others are doing MBAs.  And once our Masters in Laboratory Quality Management (MLQM) is in place they will take that as well. 

Modern education choices have changed from the old days and old ways when someone had to quit working to take extra courses.  Not any longer; Masters course can be done on-line or on-weekends or in sessional blocks.  Education now accommodates the working professional.  Our MLQM will fit in that same mold.

So to make it clear.  Our commitment is focused on improving laboratories through Quality Systems.  We will train near every person interested in getting engaged in Quality.  We believe in Acceptance criteria (or perhaps in this situation Rejection criteria).  We require people with at least 5 years of work experience in the laboratory arena so that they know and understand the laboratory setting.  We need people who are comfortable with English as their working and learning knowledge and we need people who like people and enjoy being engaged in group education.  And we need people who are committed to adding a Quality dimension to their busy careers.  

PS: Our course is starting to fill up.  If you are interested, it is time to go to

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