Dear Dr. NAACLS:
I recently finished the didactic portion of my program, and the only remaining requirement for completion of the program is the clinical rotations. Although I completed the requirements for my externship six months ago, I have yet to be placed at a clinical site to complete this portion of the program. Since that time I have spoken with everyone involved with the program, without making progress. I really don’t think that I will be assigned to a clinical site in the near future and I think that the program is violating the terms of its accreditation.
What should I do?
In order to accept a student complaint, NAACLS has three requirements: First, the complaint must be in writing. Second, there must be documentation that the student has exhausted the grievance procedure at the institution. Finally, the complaint must address the Standards.
Each program is required by Standard 13 to publish an appeal procedure that assures neutral evaluation of both academic and non-academic grievances. Typically, that procedure is published in Student Handbook or college catalogue. Students are to follow that procedure, which typically includes addressing the concern with the course instructor, then the program director, and, finally, senior administrators. At each level, it is important to collect some documentation of the discussion. An email or a letter thanking the program official for meeting with you, and recapping the discussion that occurred is an excellent source of documentation of the appeal process. Most of the time, the complaint is adequately addressed at one of those levels, and NAACLS does not have to get involved. Note that NAACLS will not act on a complaint until the program has been given adequate opportunity to address the complaint.
Next, the complaint must address the Standards. When a complaint is received by NAACLS, an assessment is made as to whether the complaint indicates a possible lack of compliance with the Standards. If a complaint does not address a Standard, the complainant is notified, and no further action is taken. In this case, the complaint may indicate a possible concern with two Standards:
Standard 3: Accreditation is granted to the sponsor (and participating entities, in cases of consortia) that… coordinates classroom teaching and applied education
Standard 7M: Students must be provided with a clear, publically available, description of the program and its content and current publications, which must include…policies and procedures when applied experience cannot be guaranteed.
When the review of a complaint identifies that there is a possible lack of compliance with a Standard, the program director is notified of the existence of a complaint, and that the complaint has identified a possible lack of compliance. Be assured that the identity of the complainant is kept confidential. The program director is then asked to submit a report documenting that they are in compliance. The report, along with the complaint, is then reviewed to identify if the program has addressed the concerns satisfactorily. If so, the program and the complainant are notified, and no further action takes place. If not, the report and the complaint are forwarded to the applicable Program Review Committee, which then makes a recommendation to the NAACLS Board of Directors.
Protection of students is a major goal of accreditation and approval, and a value shared by our reviewers, Board and committee members, and staff. Thank you for your letter, and for allowing us the opportunity to act to improve the quality of clinical laboratory science education.