Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Power of On-line Courses

Once again I am in the middle of my on-line teaching commitment for the UBC Certificate Course in Laboratory Quality Management, and once again, I am loving it.
When I graduated from medical school and residency, I enjoyed working as an Infectious Disease specialist because it created the opportunity for a 1-to-1 relationship with patients.  It was satisfying to provide service and care in a truly direct fashion.  

But as my career progressed and I became more engaged in the laboratory and infection control, I found that my opportunities for impact and decision influencing were on a wider level – groups of patients distributed over wards and institutions.  What I sacrificed in terms of satisfaction with direct patient contact I picked up with system influence.  

With proficiency testing, if the direct patient impact was even further away, the system influence was much broader and covered health authorities and provinces and countries, and I was addressing quality assessment, quality improvement and education all at the same time. And as time marched on the education component grew from critiques to newsletter articles, to international training.  And the level of satisfaction grew even larger. 

But with the Program Office and the Certificate Course, the interaction scale has a whole new dimension to the dynamic.  While there is another layer that separates the laboratorian from patients, and sense of connection is much greater because the amount of interaction with laboratorians is much more intense.  Often we are communicating on a daily basis about Quality and Education and Laboratory improvement with folks taking the course are from across Canada and around the world.  The intensity and intimacy combined with the level of system influence can almost seem overwhelming.  

Over the years it has become very rewarding to attend meetings in many places and have people come up to me and say, “You may not remember, but I participated in your course in 2008 (or whatever) and I want you to know that it opened up a whole new career path for me.  Thank you so much”.  In the first 2 months of this year, I have run into people in 3 meetings with this same story.  And then there are the people who have contacted me through Linked_in.

It is very satisfying to know that so many people are pleased they took the opportunity to learn about laboratory Quality through our course.  I almost feel like Mr. Chips, if you know who that was.  

Recently we have been approached to consider developing a companion course which would cover another whole set of Quality related concepts not covered in the first course.  It is an intriguing idea.  As the whole arena of medical laboratory Quality grows (Thank you Institute of Medicine and To Err is Human.  Thank you ISO 15189) the body of essential knowledge continues to expand.  This is not information that is addressed in medical residency, nor in health administration, nor in the traditional MBA.  Increasingly people want it and institutions need it.  

I don’t know if this is a career path for everybody.  But it is a great path for me.

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