Sunday, July 1, 2012

POLQM: through the mirror forward

We have now completed our 10th season for the UBC Certificate Course in Laboratory Quality Management and it time to look back.

This year we had 24 candidates from a variety of backgrounds; most from Canada, but our largest group from abroad.    A very interested and motivated and experienced group with a lot of participation and a lot of discourse and opinion.  A very successful year with a certificate rate >85%.  

The group found the course met their needs very well.

Over the years we have enrolled about 250 participants from across Canada and around the world.  Our Canadian distribution is closely representative of Canadian distribution.   The provinces with the greatest participation are British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, but we have participants from every province.  

That makes us a the best demonstration of the Pan Canadian interest in knowledge and continuing education and continual improvement in the topic of Quality Management for medical laboratories.  

We also have had participants from the United States, China, Guyana, Saudi Arabia and Oman.  Our decision to expand our reach beyond Canadian borders worked out even better than we had anticipated.  What we have observed in all the participants s is a greater awareness of  the international nature of Quality, and also that many of the challenges that they see in their own laboratory are hardly unique to their own region.  

Overall we have a successful certification rate of about 90 percent with the major characteristic for not being successful being lack of participation time.  So much of education is learning from others – both from the faculty/staff and library of literature, but also and more so from the other participants.  

But what we have found is that those participants who did not get engaged often had run into work or personal problems that had intervened such as a new and heavy workload change or death in the family or have a baby in mid-course have broken the pattern of participation.  We have offered to these folks the opportunity to take the course again in the subsequent year, only having to pay the small incremental costs of tuition rise and extra books.

As a side note what it tells me is that on-line education can be successful, especially when it continues to offer all the benefits of the classroom but with the efficiencies and effectiveness of the internet.  

Not everything that we have done has turned out to be a great success.  Our biggest failure was the development of a refresher course for folks for whom 5 years had lapsed.  We believed that some of the participants would be interested in picking up some of the new content and new contacts.  

Despite a strong making awareness program (not quite the same thing as advertising) we had so few takers that we could not follow through.  We could spin this either way: either we were so effective in implementing the foundations that folks felt that they were able to stay on top of the new changes on their own, or we had made the course so intense that they were not prepared to take on the time commitment as second time. 

But in the meantime, we have looked within ourselves and made some personal decisions:

  1. The Certificate Course is providing a valuable and appreciated service to the medical laboratory community.  We will continue the course, recognizing that each year we make additions and revisions, in part based on participant comments and in part based on the changing landscape of medical laboratories and Quality.
  2. The Certificate Course does change substantially, and starting next year we are going to time limit the Certificate to probably 5 years, not as a way to force refreshment, but to acknowledge the amount of change.
  3. Rather than focus on refresher, we are going to expand the number of courses with new content.   Whether by luck or intuition, I have learned that a course lasting more that 20 weeks will be too long for the working professional interested in continuing education, and will result in more and more negatives.  It is better for us to split the content into different pieces with unique but related focus.  In that regard I have developed a new 12 week course for the modern active Qualitologist.  Once it has gone through the UBC Continuing Professional Development approval process we will start to our awareness campaign for September 2014.

More on this soon.

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