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Continuing education resources for laboratorians.

Shrinking resources mean less time and money for facilities to send staff members away for continuing education seminars. Many opportunities exist, however, for laboratorians to take responsibility for their own education at home.

It's a difficult time to be a clinical laboratory professional. It is a time of downsizing, re-engineering, "right-sizing," and meeting increasingly difficult budgets. It seems we are continually asked to do more with less; however, the responsibility for maintaining and improving our professional status still exists.

Due to recertification requirements, employer personnel policy, and laboratory licensure requirements, participation in a continuing education (CE) program of some sort is necessary. But should that be the only reason - simply to fulfill an obligation? There is so much to be gained, both personally and professionally, from enthusiastically taking part in CE, and there are many CE activities that take a minimal amount of time and are either free or fairly inexpensive.

As a former laboratory supervisor, I can tell you that employee participation in CE is definitely noticed. The employee interested in his or her professional development will probably be the one who is asked to head a committee or be considered more seriously for a promotion. Participation in CE opportunities looks good on your resume as well. It is a reflection of your interest in your profession and is usually a good indicator of your level of commitment to the job.

Let's begin by reviewing some CE credit terms. Participation is recognized for the completion of a CE course or program by the awarding of either a contact hour (CH), a continuing medical laboratory education (CMLE) unit, or a continuing education unit (CEU). One CH or one CMLE is equivalent to 0.1 CEUs. Each hour of a course that awards CEUs is worth 0.1 CEU. Courses and programs are worth varying amounts of these units, depending on their content and length of time for completion. It is important that you keep a record of the programs you participate in so that when necessary, you can document your level of involvement in CE.

Many states have enacted licensure laws specifying the education, training and professional certification of laboratory professionals (see Table 1). In addition, several states have mandated the number of CE credits one must have to renew one's license (see Table 2). The laws regarding licensure are periodically updated, so it is best to check with your individual state legislatures and/or accrediting agencies regarding the current requirements in your area. To fulfill these requirements, certification through a national agency may be required. Before you decide to pay for a particular CE program, it is important to check whether the credits awarded by the program will be accepted by your certifying agency, state board, or employer.

To contact agencies and professional organizations that certify laboratory professionals, refer to CLR's "Directory of professional organizations" on page 16. Some of the certifying agencies include the following:

American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP)

Founded in 1922, the ASCP is a not-for-profit medical society representing pathologists, pathology residents, medical technologists, medical technicians, medical students, as well as other laboratory personnel. ASCP currently offers more than 500 CE programs per year, including workshops, teleconferences, national meetings, and educational courses. Currently in development is a program entitled "Lectures online," teleconference lectures that are transmitted over the Internet. This pilot program allows you to preview teleconference lectures with the stipulation that you fill out an evaluation form about the experience. Lectures can be found on the the ASCP Web site at

While not requiring a given amount of CE credits for renewal of active membership, the Board of Registry of ASCP has established a voluntary program to allow medical laboratory professionals to demonstrate their continued competence in the field. The "Continuing Competence Recognition" program is designed for professionals who were certified at least 5 years ago and provides 3 pathways in which to demonstrate their abilities: by computer exam, through documentation of 60 hours of acceptable CE within the past 5 years, or by completion of a Board of Registry on-site competence assessment form with their employer.

American Medical Technologists (AMT)

The American Medical Technologists is a not-for-profit organization established in 1939 that issues national certification credentials to clinical laboratory professionals, while the American Medical Technologists Institute for Education (AMTIE) offers CE opportunities. CE credits can be earned by reading AMT journal articles appearing in the quarterly supplement and completing the accompanying test, or by attending various educational programs, workshops, or sessions at AMT local and national meetings. A selection of home study units also has been approved for CE credit. AMT requires medical technologists and technicians to complete 15 contact hours per year.

American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB) Associate Member Section

In March 1999, an announcement regarding the merger of the American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB) and the International Society for Clinical Laboratory Technology (ISCLT) was released. The new structure established the AAB Associate Member Section (formerly the ISCLT) and the AAB Board of Registry (formerly the ISCLT Credentialing Commission). The AAB Board of Registry certifies qualified clinical laboratory technologists, technicians, and physician office laboratory technicians. Since its organization in 1962, the AAB Board of Registry has permitted individuals to qualify through a combination of formal education, training, and experience. Individuals who pass the AAB Board of Registry examination must complete a minimum of 1 year of full-time work experience in a laboratory at the level at which they have received their credentials. New graduates with no work experience are given a "provisional" certification. This interim certification is continued until documentation is received from the laboratory director attesting to the certificant's competent performance for a minimum period of 1 year.

Certificants are encouraged to participate in the AAB Board of Registry's continuing education program. Under this program, those individuals who document at least 12 contact hours of continuing education in a calendar year will be certified "with commendation" the following renewal period.

National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel (NCALP)

Formerly known as the National Certification Agency (NCA), the NCALP is a voluntary, not-for-profit organization sponsored by the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) and the Association of Genetic Technologists (AGT) that has certified medical laboratory personnel since 1977. NCALP offers certification in a variety of classifications including phlebotomist, clinical laboratory supervisor (CLSup), clinical laboratory scientist (CLS), clinical laboratory technician (CLT), as well as several specialist categories. Certification is valid for a period of 3 years. To remain active within NCALP, a record of CEUs is required.

NCALP supports the concept of recertification as a mechanism to assess continued competence in the certified category. Recertification is achieved in one of two ways: (1) submission of documentation of approved continuing education in the past 3 years or (2) re-examination. After submitting the proper documentation, individuals are recredentialed for a period of 3 years. A broad range of educational and professional activities are accepted for recertification. The recertification fee is $50, and 36 contact hours are required for each 3-year period.

To qualify for certification from any of the above agencies, education from an accredited program is essential. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), incorporated in 1973, is a nonprofit organization which independently accredits approximately 700 clinical lab educational programs across the U.S. Another agency, the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), is listed as a nationally recognized agency by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit medical laboratory technician programs in the public and private sectors.

Other resources

In addition to the programs offered through the national certification agencies, a number of alternative continuing education resources offer laboratorians flexibility in terms of time, location, and cost:

Internet. The Internet provides a convenient, cost-effective, and interesting way to participate in CE. There are a number of sites that provide programs, many of which are eligible for CE credit, and more opportunities become available daily. For those who are Internet-savvy, it is worth the time spent "browsing" for new options, as this form of CE can be done from the comfort of your home or office and is a good way to get comfortable with computer technology. Refer to Table 3 for a listing of several sources for online CE resources.

Journal sources. Trade journals and professional society publications provide us with a convenient, inexpensive method of obtaining CE credit. Because these publications are mailed to our homes or offices, we are required simply to read the articles, complete the examination forms, and submit these forms along with a fee to the sponsoring organization.

National/regional meetings and workshops. National and regional meetings, sponsored by professional societies as well as other organizations, bring a variety of educational workshops and symposiums to a single location. They provide an avenue for peer networking, interaction with industry experts, as well as an excellent opportunity to obtain CE credits. See MLO's Web site at for a list of meetings and links to the sponsoring organizations.

Audiocassettes. "In-service Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Science," by Oak Stone Publishing, is a monthly audiocassette CE program sponsored by the ASCLS. Formats are available for individual use or for groups of as many as 6 participants. Topics presented include regulatory compliance, reproductive endocrinology, and CPT coding. The price for individuals is approximately $235 per year and for groups of as many as 6, $375 per year. For more information, contact Oak Stone Publishing, 6801 Cahaba Valley Road, Birmingham, AL 35242, phone (800) 633-4743.

Home study. The Colorado Association for Continuing Medical Laboratory Education, Inc., (CACMLE) offers a variety of continuing education programs geared for individual as well as group instruction. Thirty-six home study courses covering blood banking, chemistry, hematology, immunology, management, and microbiology are currently offered.

Continuing education credit is given to those who score 80% on a post-course exam. Prices for home-study packets generally range from $125 to $150 (plus shipping and handling). For more information, contact CACMLE at 6825 East Tennessee Avenue, Suite 111, Denver, CO 80224-1629, (303) 321-1734, or send e-mail to

The American Association of Clinical Chemistry (AACC) offers self-study courses designed to give laboratory professionals an opportunity to expand their knowledge in the field of laboratory medicine. Each course includes objectives, written text with charts, tables, references, and an open-book exam. Fifteen hours of CE credit will be awarded to those who score 80% on a post-course exam. The cost is $100 for the self-study course materials and $60 for the exam packet.

Audio/teleconferences. Audio and teleconferences offer a convenient way to participate in CE programs and earn continuing education credits without requiring rime away from work. Most often presented for a group of laboratorians at their place of employment, audio/teleconferences are sent via phone lines and enhanced with slides and/or written lecture material.

CACMLE offers two audio-teleconferences: a "microbiology series," which explores clinical microbiology and infectious disease at $500 per site (optional specimen unknowns for laboratory workup are available for an additional fee), and a "general topics series" covering such topics as techniques in molecular biology, issues in pre-analytical phlebotomy, and up-to-date information in chemistry, hematology, and hemostasis. Participants may register for the entire series or for individual sessions. The cost is either $110 per session, 5 sessions for $495, or 10 sessions for $935.

Other organizations such as AACC, American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), ASCP, Clinical Laboratory Managers Association (CLMA), and the National Laboratory Training Network (NLTN) offer similar presentations. Contact the sponsoring organizations for more information.

Table 1

States requiring licensing of lab professionals(*)


State of California - Department of Health Services, phone (510) 873-6327; fax (510) 873-6377.


Board of Clinical Laboratory Personnel, phone (850) 487-3240; fax (850) 921-9188.


Georgia Department of Human Resources - Office of Regulatory Services, phone (404) 657-5450; fax (404) 657-8934.


Hawaii Department of Health - State Laboratory Division, phone (808) 453-6653; fax (808) 453-6662.


Clinical Laboratory Science Department - Northeast Louisiana University, phone (318) 342-1632; fax (318) 342-1635.


Board of Clinical Laboratory Science Practitioners, phone (406) 444-3561; fax (406) 444-1667.


Nevada Bureau of Licensure and Certification, phone (702) 687-4475; fax (702) 687-6588.


North Dakota Department of Health, phone (701) 328-5262; fax (701) 328-5270.


Puerto Rico Department of Public Health, phone (787) 792-6400; fax (787) 792-6627.


Rhode Island Department of Health - Laboratory and Licensure Certification, phone (401) 222-4526; fax (401) 222-3999.


Tennessee Medical Laboratory Board Personnel, phone (615) 532-5126; fax (615) 532-5369.


West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources - Office of Laboratory Services, phone (304) 558-3530; fax (304) 558-2006.

* Information provided by The American Society of Clinical Pathologists Associate Member Section, Washington Office

Table 2

States with continuing education requirements for lab professionals(*)

CALIFORNIA 12 hours per year

FLORIDA 24 hours every 2 years

LOUISIANA 12 hours per year

MONTANA 14 hours per year

NEVADA 20 hours every 2 years

NORTH DAKOTA 20 hours every 2 years

PUERTO RICO 36 hours every 3 years

RHODE ISLAND 30 hours every 2 years

WEST VIRGINIA 10 hours per year

* Information provided by The American Society of Clinical Pathologists Associate Member Section, Washington Office

Table 3

Online continuing education resources


The American Association for Clinical Chemistry Web site includes an online course entitled "Understanding the clinical uses of blood gases and electrolytes," available until 9/30/99, and participants have 90 days after registering to complete the course and exam. Those scoring 80% will earn 15 hours of ACCENT CE credit.

$145/members; $195/nonmembers. Sponsored by: AACC Web site:


The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science Web site offers a free online course entitled "Your lab in court." Successful completion of the 10-question quiz is worth 2 contact hours through the Professional Acknowledgment for Continuing Education (PACE) program. Another more intensive Web course called "Basic QC practices" offers 15 PACE contact hours on completion of a final exam.

$75/members; $55/nonmembers

Sponsored by: ASCLS

Web site:

Bloodline - The Online Hematology Resource

Provides online case studies and images that may fulfill employer CE requirements.

Sponsored by: Bloodline

Web site:

Case of the Month

Each case is presented as a problem with guidance provided through a series of multiple choice questions, to which the participant has access to answers through a hyperlink. CE credit is granted through the PACE program of the ASCLS.

Sponsored by: Weber State University (with Coulter Corporation and Ogden Clinic)

Web site:

Clinical Laboratory Science WWW Site List

Provides links to professional associations, other CE resources, publications, medical newsgroups, etc.

Sponsored by: University of Nebraska Division of Medical Technology.

Web site:

Distance Education in Clinical Laboratory Science

Offers links to CE courses in clinical laboratory sciences.

Sponsored by: Delgado Community College

Web site:

Learning Laboratorian

CME articles, self-study courses, study materials, self-assessment tests, and documentation of participation. Each volume provides 0.4 CEUs.

Sponsored by: Medical College of Georgia

Web sites: and

Medical Laboratory Science Distance Education Modules

This CE activity provides 15 hours of CMLE credit. Offers 6 study modules in transfusion medicine.

Sponsored by: Division of Medical Laboratory Science, University of Alberta

Web site:


Offers both free and fee-based CME activities. Free programs are based on learning modules developed by Medscape. The fee-based program is based on selected journal articles developed by Medscape and other publishers and allows unlimited access over 12 months for a $50 fee.

Sponsored by: Medscape

Web site:

Med TechNet

Offers monthly CE presentations, full-color images, and PACE credit. Each presentation can be downloaded and is available for a 3-week period.

Sponsored by: Meal TechNet

Web site:


Provides articles with a questionnaire to earn up to 2 CE hours. Offered by the FDA and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.

Sponsored by: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Web site:

Virtual Hospital

Highlights include "The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA) and the physician office laboratory;" $50 fee; earn up to 20 hours of CME.

Sponsored by: University of Iowa College of Medicine

Web site: University of Utah CME

An electronic resource which includes over 1,900 images, text, tutorials, and laboratory exercises.

Sponsored by: University of Utah School of Medicine

Web site:

WWW Laboratory Medicine and Pathology Links

Contains links to pathology-related disciplines.

Sponsored by: Medmark

Web site:

Donna M. Falcone is an independent project consultant based in Naperville, IL.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Nelson Publishing
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Author:Falcone, Donna M.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Jul 1, 1999
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