Competency tug of war: How one lab supervisor tackled this trick task

By Kristen Holshoe, BS, MLS (ASCP)

June 23, 2016

Whether you are making minor changes to your existing competency assessment program or giving it a major overhaul, you can expect some resistance along the way. Each year, the requirements for satisfying competency assessment have become increasingly stringent. While the intent is to ensure the training of technical laboratory staff is effective, it often feels like a revolving door of assessments that never end. As a new supervisor several years ago, one of my first projects was to tackle the competency assessment requirements and implement a new plan for our hematology and coagulation departments. Our current plan is far from perfect, but I noticed a few things along the way that helped to “soften the blow” to my staff.

  1. Communication
    Communicate the competency assessment requirements with your staff and acknowledge the challenging aspects it will present. Help them identify which aspects will present the most obstacles and brainstorm ideas to get past them together.

  2. Ask for help
    Request input from your staff on how to meet certain objectives or ask them to contribute to scheduling, blind sample creation, or documentation. By including your staff in the decision-making processes, you give them a sense of control over something they may otherwise feel is out of their hands.

  3. Stick to your plan
    Communicate a clear, concise plan in advance of implementation. Make sure the plan includes specific details such as assessments scheduled, timelines, due dates, and expected feedback. Try not to deviate from your plan, once your plan is in place. Keeping things consistent throughout the year will create a sense of reliability with your peers allowing them to know what to anticipate ahead of time.

  4. Cover for your team 
    It’s in your best interest to offer to help 'cover' your staff’s bench duties if needed so they can fit in assessment assignments. In our laboratory, it isn’t uncommon to have shorter due dates on certain blind sample assignments as specimen integrity is always a concern. At times, it can be challenging for techs to squeeze these in on specific days if the lab is especially busy. Offering to cover their bench duties for a small amount of time helps to foster a culture of teamwork – something many labs are sorely lacking.

Regardless of the program you use, competency assessment is an enormous undertaking for all laboratory staff, especially for those responsible for its creation and documentation. Implementing any significant changes can be difficult, but there are certain things you can do to make your life a little easier in the transition.

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Kristen Holshoe, BS, MLS (ASCP)

Kristen Holshoe is the Hematology/Coagulation laboratory supervisor at a northwest Michigan hospital. As is evident in her quality of work, she is proud to be a valuable part of the healthcare team performing complex testing as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist.

With 15 years of experience in the field, Kristen is passionate about promoting her profession through education and networking in an effort to make the career more “visible” Find Kristen on LinkedIn.