by Dianne M. Cearlock, PhD
Chief Executive Officer
NAACLS’ mission is: “NAACLS is committed to being the premier international agency for accreditation and approval of educational programs in the clinical laboratory sciences and related health professions through the involvement of expert volunteers and its commitment to public service.” To meet the commitment to public service, NAACLS needs to keep up a communication flow with members of the public to solicit opinions, ideas, and concerns. Only through effective communication can NAACLS stay aware of the needs of the public and the services NAACLS needs to provide. NAACLS uses various approaches to foster this communication.
First, one of the twelve Board of Directors members must meet the criteria for Public Member. The key “credential” for serving in this position is that the member is not employed in the laboratory industry in any capacity as a primary source of income. That characteristic is further interpreted as someone who can truly represent the “consumer” of laboratory services or programs. The second key requirement is that the member is willing to serve as a volunteer Board member with all its concomitant roles and responsibilities. Public members are drawn from a variety of employment sectors and professions. For example, prior public members include a library science professional and an attorney. At its most recent meeting the Board elected Elton Richards, MBA who is employed as Regional Manager for Exelon/Commonwealth Edison (please see Board of Directors Update – April, 2013). Mr. Richards assumes the Board position later this year and will bring his unique perspective to Board decision-making.
Second, NAACLS solicits the opinions of the public before making any substantive changes to the Standards for Accredited and Approved Programs by disseminating requests for public comment. The public comment period can vary in length but in this day of instant electronic communication is usually 30 days. The Board of Directors is the only decision-making body for NAACLS and as such NAACLS is not required to amend proposed standards changes in response to public comment but traditionally the Board has reviewed all comments seriously and been very responsive to comments.
There are two recent examples of the Board of Directors seeking public comment on proposed changes to the standards. Before adopting the new Standards for Accredited and Approved Programs, the Standards were widely circulated with a request for public comment. NAACLS received well over 100 comments, all were reviewed by the Board, and numerous amendments were made at the Fall 2012 Board of Directors meeting prior to the Board adopting the final document. At its Spring 2013 meeting, the Board deliberated making a change to the unique Standards for HTL programs by adding the HT(BOC) credential to the HTL(BOC) credential in the requirements for appointment as Program Director or Education Coordinator of an HTL program. This was interpreted as a substantive change and therefore NAACLS is soliciting comments from the public for a 30-day period (please see Board of Directors Update – Spring 2013).
Beginning in 2012, NAACLS publishes a summary of its accreditation and approval decisions on our website. Information provided includes the program type and location, the accreditation or approval award granted, which Standards (if any) were cited, and the date of the next review. These summaries complement the Find a Program database on NAACLS website. These two resources allow the public to search for a program and evaluate the status of the program in terms of its accreditation or approval status. This is critical information to current and potential students and their families and friends. Many routes of eligibility for taking BOC certification exams require that the applicant has graduated from a NAACLS accredited or approved program. Potential employers are also able to determine if a position applicant is likely to be educationally well-prepared.
Through these mechanisms NAACLS keeps an “ear to the ground” with the larger community. Involving members of the public in decision-making and other volunteer activities, welcoming public comments about changes to standards, and providing access to information about programs and their accreditation and approval status keeps the communication flow robust. And that in turn allows NAACLS to provide a high level of service to the public.