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Cross-training: boon or bane?

Adovcates see the concept as a solution to the personnel shortage, while critics say it reduces the quality of care. Regardless of who is right, the concept of cross-training is being tried and is bound to involve laboratorians.

In its May 6, 1991, issue, Modern Healthcare reported on some of the cross-training efforts under way. The idea, borrowed from high-tech manufacturing, is to train technicians to perform multiple tasks so they can be deployed more efficiently.

The simplest programs require workers within one department to perform more than one job. For example, technical employees in some radiology departments are responsible for both x-ray and an imaging technology.

In the most complex programs, hospitals plan to revolutionize the way in which care is provided at the bedside. That's the goal of two ambitious programs: one pioneered by the management consulting firm Booz-Allen & Hamilton and Lakeland (Fla.) Regional Medical Center and the other by Andersen Consulting, Eastman Kodak Co., and Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, Fla.

The idea is to restructure all nursing units so care can be delivered more efficiently. To do that, both programs relocate some ancillary procedures, such as x-rays and some blood tests, to the bedside and cross-train workers in the routine tasks of each discipline.

The first unit at Lee Memorial Hospital will be operational by fall. Lee executives estimate they will save $12.8 million annually by 1995, whe the program is fully implemented. In addition, they expect the program to reduce the average length of stay by at least 12 hours.

Using the Booz-Allen model, Vanderbilt University Hospital and Clinic in Nashville, Tenn., began a pilot project on a 31-bed orthopedic surgery unit in July 1990. The Vanderbilt program works this way:

* Employees are divided into teams of two. Each team includes at least one registered nurse and a medical technologist, radiologic technologist, respiratory therapist, or licensed practical nurse.

* Any member of the team can handle the simplest tasks in each specialty, such as drawing blood from patients or teaching patients how to breathe deeply. The most complicated tasks are performed by specialists in each area. Registered nurses are the only members with the authority to assess patients' overall progress.

* Teams care for a specific set of patients throughout the patients' stay on the unit.

Vanderbilt officials say they're still assessing the performance of the pilot program.

MLO advisor appointed

Joining MLO's Editorial Advisory Board effective this month is James W. Brown, Ph.D., M.H.A., director of microbiology, health, and environmental affairs at Roche Biomedical Laboratories, Raritan, N.J. In addition, he is president of the New Jersey Society for Medical Technology and vice president of the New Jersey Public Health Association.

Dr. Brown has covered the last three International AIDS Conferences for MLO, and his report on the latest one, just held in Florence, Italy, in June, appears in this issue. The article is important reading for all laboratorians. Dr. Brown replaces Dr. William O. Umiker, who had served on our Editorial Advisory Board since 1979. Dr. Umiker will continue to be an active contributor to MLO.

Two other Advisory Board members recently assumed new executive positions. Dr. Robert P. De Cresce moved from Michael Reese Hospital to become director of laboratories at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center; both facilities are in Chicago. Dr. Thomas A. Blumenfeld left Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City to become corporate vice president for health policy at Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the largest Blues plan in the country. Both will continue to serve on MLO's advisory Board.
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Title Annotation:training medical technologists to perform multiple tasks
Author:Fitzgibbon, Robert J.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:editorial
Date:Aug 1, 1991
Words:593
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