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Multitude of professional organizations offers choices and benefits for laboratorians.

Many of us certified in this field have credentials from one or more organizations, including the American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB) American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) and the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel (NCA). Those of us certified before 1988 also may have credentials from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) Moreover, a large percentage of lab personnel belongs to multiple professional societies, including those mentioned above, in addition to the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) and more specialized groups, such as the American Association for [Clinical Chemistry (AACC), American Society for Microbiology (ASM), and/or Clinical Laboratory Management Association (CLMA). (See Table 1 on page 40.)

With the existence of so many organizations, each with its own voice and agenda, many in the field believe additional benefits would be attainable through closer affiliation between the various societies.

Among these possible benefits:

* Strengthening of the infrastructure. A cooperative relationship among the various organizations could provide a larger pool of volunteers willing to work on special committees and projects. The current situation dilutes this pool among several groups that are likely to be working separately on related affairs.

* Additional CE opportunities. Elimination of duplicate courses could encourage the development of new programs targeted at leading-edge technological advancements.

* Shared scientific meetings. Organizing and sponsoring annual scientific meetings is an expensive undertaking. Sharing space and resources would help manage these costs. Vendor support might increase as well since the focus of time and money would be at one meeting in one location. Some organizations have begun conducting joint meetings already.

* Unified voice on governmental issues. Increased collaboration between organizations could result in a larger, more effective team better equipped to lobby for legislation critical to the success of the profession.

* Increased public awareness. Because members of our profession work "behind the scenes," the public has limited understanding of the level of technological skills needed to perform our jobs. A partnership among the societies could help bring recognition and increase respect for our profession. Collaborative activities for National Medical Laboratory Week, for instance, could lead to powerful increased public awareness.

* Enhanced recruitment efforts. Greater unity between groups could increase the resources needed to strengthen efforts to recruit new members into the profession.

* Creation of uniform certification procedures. While each state currently handles professional certification for laboratory professionals differently, the consensus among the leaders of the various professional organizations is that one national certifying examination is far superior to individual state exams.

David Glenn, Chair of the ASCP Associate Member Section, suggests that working together on common goals and activities may best be accomplished through the formation of coalitions, task forces, and joint planning committees.

"If there are organizations out there whose memberships basically agree on all the economic, political, educational, and professional issues facing the field, then there is probably good reason for them to merge," adds Mark S. Birenbaum, administrator of AAB. "Otherwise, the best course of action is for the various laboratory organizations to work together on issues that they can agree upon."

Donna M. Falcone is a freelance project consultant based in Naperville, IL.

The multitude of professional organizations presents laboratorians with many choice and benefits -- from making the best use of their talents and resources to getting the recognition they deserve Moreover additional benefits are attainable through cooperation among these groups.

Meeting challenges of professional certification

The issue of professional certification has traditionally been a bone of contention among laboratory professionals. There are, however, steps laboratorians can take to smooth rough edges in their overall attempts to cooperate with colleagues and co-workers.

Very few question the importance of certification for the laboratory professional. Certification shows the public and the employer that the individual has completed a course of study and that he or she has met defined competency standards. The question comes down to whether individual state board exams or one national board exam is better for clinical laboratory personnel and the field of clinical laboratory science in general. The consensus among the leaders of the various professional organizations is that one national examination is far superior to individual state exams. Reasons cited include the establishment of one set of competency standards, the increased portability of credentials state-to-state, and the financial implications.

As David Glenn, chairman of the ASCP Associate Member Section states, "State licensing exams are expensive to administer; therefore, taxpayers and/or the licensure candidates must absorb the costs."

One concern about professional qualifying tests relates to the qualifications needed in order to sit for the examination. Mark S. Birenbaum, administrator ofAAB, points out that if there is only one examination for which a baccalaureate degree is a prerequisite, the field runs the risk of pitting degreed technologists against non-degreed technologists.

Included in this equation is the relative importance of continuing education. While only one of the national certifying agencies requires either continuing education or reexamination for the renewal of certification (NCA), all agree it is important. Physicians, nurses, teachers and many other professionals are required to periodically have some amount of continuing education in order to renew their licenses or certifications.

While not all laboratorians can afford to attend the various state, regional, and national meetings where many of the programs are offered, there is an increasing number of cost-effective options available. Teleconferences, journal articles, audiocassettes and Internet programs are relatively low cost alternatives to participation in societal meetings. The opportunities are available. Continued learning is an essential element in the evolution of any profession, especially one like the field of clinical laboratory medicine, which is evolving so rapidly.

American Society for Microbiology (ASM) originally Society of American Bacteriologists

How can the problems with professional certification be resolved? Some believe that there needs to be a better delineation of the roles of the medical technologist(MT)/ clinical laboratory scientist(CLS) and the medical laboratory technician(MLT)/clinical laboratory technician(CLT). The National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel (NCA) performed job analyses for the CLS and CLT examinations in 1993-94 and again in 1998-99. The results showed that there was a significant overlap of tasks performed in the two job categories. However, the CLS level was differentiated by the addition of more specialized technical tasks that involve more prob1em-solving abilities and duties that require more interaction with other members of the healthcare team [1]

While it is up to individual institutions to more effectively separate the duties between the levels of professionals they employ, it would be advantageous to the field of laboratory medicine if the membership could agree on a set of uniform guidelines. While not united under one organization, we do need to be united under one vision.


(1.) Presentation by Kathy Hansen for the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel at the NAACLS Futures Conference in Rosemont, Illinois, September 22, 2000.

Timeline of professional organizations


American Society for Microbiology (ASM); originally Society of American Bacteriologists


American Association of Immunologists

American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP)


ASCP Board of Registry American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) originally American Society for Medical Technologists (ASTM)


American Medical Technologists (AMT)


American Association of Blood Banks (AABB)


American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC)


American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB)


American Society of Hematology (ASH).


International Society for Clinical Laboratory Technology (ISCLT); originally Registry of Medical Technologists International; today part of AAB


American Association of Pathology Assistants (AAPA).


National Society for Histotechnology


Association of Genetic Technologists (AGT)


National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel (NCALP); originally National Certification Agency (NCA)


Clinical Laboratory Management Association (CLMA) American Society for Cytotechnology (ASCT)
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Article Details
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Author:Falcone, Donna M.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2001
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