NAACLS has been working towards revision of the core and unique Standards for Accreditation and Approval for nearly two years. A previous CEO’s Corner (New Directions – Same Values, Volume 106, Fall 2010) outlined the Board of Directors’ vision for the revised Standards that includes a focus on outcomes, fewer requirements for documenting resources and course inputs, and an ambience that encourages innovation. There has been less communication regarding the process by which new Standards are developed, reviewed, and adopted. This column outlines the past and future processes of NAACLS Standards revision.
The process began with the appointment by the NAACLS President of the Chair and members of the Standards Revision Task Force and the development of the charge to the Task Force. The appointments were intended to bring together experienced and futuristic people representing all program levels that NAACLS accredits or approves. Futuristic thinking is critical to this task because the Standards now in development will not be fully effective on the majority of NAACLS programs for five or more years. The Task Force met by teleconference multiple times and submitted a written report to the Board in April 2010. The Board provided feedback and further articulated its vision for the new Standards. The membership and leadership of the Task Force underwent some changes and it was “back to the drawing board”. The Task Force Chair participated in multiple robust discussions during the Review Committees meetings in July 2010 and took back to the Task Force many suggestions, concerns, and perspectives.
Again the Task Force met through a series of teleconferences and the result was a draft set of standards again shared with the Review Committees for discussion in July 2011 and submitted to the Board in September 2011. Still to be developed is a table outlining suggestions for documentation of each Standard, meant to assist program officials. That task, combined with additional comments and suggestions from the Review Committee and Board members, are now being addressed by the Task Force. Also to be addressed are the Task Force’s recommendations for minimum benchmarks for several program outcomes.
Any additional amendments to the draft Standards, the table with suggestions for documenting Standards, and the recommended benchmarks are to be completed and submitted for discussion to the Review Committees in February 2012 and the Board in April 2012. It is within the Board’s purview whether or not to release the draft Standards with a request for public comment. When the Board makes that decision the draft will be available through the upcoming NAACLS blog and on the website with the request for comments. Comments will be collected and considered by the Board at the conclusion of the comment period. At that time, the Board will determine if any additional amendments are to be made before adopting new Standards.
In addition to adopting new Standards, the Board also determines the time period for implementing the Standards. That period is generally not less than one year from the date of adoption. Programs that are in the process of developing the self study or preparing for the site visit have typically been given the choice of whether to be reviewed by the old or new Standards.
The development, review, and adoption of new Standards is a multi-year process with multiple and repeated opportunities for stakeholders to provide comments and perspectives. This process is one way in which NAACLS seeks to fulfill its mission to be “the premier agency for accreditation and approval of educational programs in the clinical laboratory sciences and related healthcare disciplines through the involvement of expert volunteers and its dedication to public service.”
Dianne Cearlock, PHD