What would Spock say about your lab?

By Matt Swanson, BS, MT(ASCP), CSSBB

December 06, 2019

We all know Science Officer Spock, right? Cool. Calm. Logical.

What do you suppose he would say about your lab?

If your lab is anything like the ones I’ve worked at in the past, it’s probably a mixed bag. Some parts of your operation are flying high, others stumble from time-to-time. Spock would not be pleased.

Running the perfect lab (or pharmacy, or nursing unit, or imaging department, or….) is a practical impossibility, and none of us can boast to Vulcan greatness. Nonetheless, we are all students of continuous improvement of one flavor or another – be it TQM, CQI, QM, Lean, Six-Sigma or something else. We are all involved in processes that incrementally improve our quality over time.

Nonetheless, our industry is bogged down by some of the same issues year after year. The CLIA regulations we live under are now 31 years old – and yet the industry still faces deficiencies in the areas of competency assessment and personnel qualifications, amongst others. The requirements are not difficult, and the solutions are known.  AACC published an excellent article on this topic in Clinical Laboratory News (July 2018) as it reviewed findings from CAP, COLA, CMS and TJC surveys. The authors rightly point out that “Regulatory compliance is the responsibility of every individual that works in a laboratory.”  This means a Culture of Quality.  

Developing a Culture of Quality is perhaps the best way to move towards zero deficiencies. In all honesty, it is hard work, takes organizational discipline, visible executive buy-in, and the right set of tools and resources to do the job. Reminding staff that quality occurs in every step of the analytical process can never be overstated. Acquiring the right tools does involve cost – but the cost of a deficiency is likely higher. Consider the last deficiency your lab (or another lab) received. How many staff hours went into resolving the issue, documenting the changes, writing the plan of correction, and then monitoring performance thereafter? Was there more than one deficiency? The financial and management burdens just keep coming.

Although we're all looking forward to a new year, now is the time to look back at your operation honestly, and isolate areas for improvement.  Make a list of those areas you know need improvement, and budget the time and resources to make improvements.  Get involved in being a champion for quality.  

It's a big job.  Focusing on one area at a time will help to keep the tasks from becoming overwhelming.  

StaffReady healthcare software provides cloud-based solutions that automate staff scheduling, competency assessment, and document control for healthcare organizations. StaffReady is Clinical Workforce Management Software.  We'll help you get close to Vulcan greatness!

We at StaffReady wish you the Happiest of Holidays and a Most Logical New Year!


We’ll be at the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting in Las Vegas, December 9-11. Come visit us at booth 411!

Matt Swanson, BS, MT(ASCP), CSSBB

Matt Swanson is the Technical Operations Manager at StaffReady. He came to StaffReady with 29 years of experience in the clinical laboratory, with roles varying from Bench Tech to Operations Management to Consultant to Business Intelligence Analyst.  He became a Certified Six-Sigma Black Belt in 2017. Find Matt on LinkedIn.