When a patient has a medical test done, both patient and healthcare provider put a lot of trust in the lab that runs the test.
In order to help medical laboratories fulfill the trust placed in them, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) regulates all non-research medical labs. CMS requires these labs to meet the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA). Over 260,000 labs worldwide are certified by CLIA.
Some medical labs, including the lab at Rush Memorial Hospital, seek an additional certification offered by the College of American Pathologists (CAP). CAP certification requirements build on CLIA requirements, but are more rigorous. In 2017, only 20,480 labs worldwide were using CAP proficiency testing. Some of these labs are required to follow CAP standards, but for Rush Memorial Hospital, participation in the CAP process is voluntary.
CEO Brad Smith explains why RMH participates in this program.
“In general, some patients think that ‘out of town’ is better and bigger is better, so we pursue these types of accreditations and certifications to ensure we deliver the best results we can for our patients. It also builds up trust and pride in the community that our lab is a high-functioning lab with very dedicated employees running a department that is made to keep up with very high standards,” Smith said.
CAP certification is peer reviewed. Every two years, a CAP team comes to inspect the RMH lab. Every other year, the RMH lab team goes to inspect another CAP certified lab. According to Laboratory Director Amanda Scheiderer, the RMH lab has been CAP certified for over 10 years.
Amanda, who has a BS in Clinical Laboratory Science and an MBA in Healthcare Administration, has been RMH Laboratory Director for the past four years. Since her arrival, she has supervised the upgrading of much of the lab equipment. Up to date and accurate lab machines are essential for maintaining CAP certification.
Amanda is very proud of her team. She has a staff of 19, including the phlebotomists who draw blood. Most of the lab techs who perform the testing have either an Associate degree or a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science. In addition to their degree, most also have national certifications.
Lab work is a good career opportunity for those seeking to further their education. The number of students going into the field of laboratory science has decreased in recent years, making it increasingly difficult to find good, qualified, lab staff. This makes qualified candidates particularly rare and valuable. To address this and similar issues, Brian Bane, Vice President of Human Resources and Debra Meek, HR Recruitment and Employment, are working to create a hospital wide talent network of potential employees. The purpose of the talent network is to allow the hospital to select the best candidates available when a position comes open. This is particularly valuable when maintaining a CAP level staff for the lab.
The Laboratory Department is constantly changing and improving but there are always challenges.
Teamwork is essential to delivering quality healthcare, particularly in a rural area. The RMH lab has an external team as well as an internal one. Riverview Hospital in Noblesville is part of the external team. Once a day, a courier from Riverview Hospital comes to collect specimens from patients who need tests that require a larger facility. When results are needed ASAP, a stat courier makes a special trip.
By following elite CAP standards, maximizing the quality of the lab staff and choosing an excellent external team, RMH has created a recipe for laboratory excellence. Fast and accurate test results aren’t glamorous or heroic, but for Amanda and her staff they don’t have to be. They know that quality healthcare can’t exist without them. And that’s enough.