by Fred Rodriguez, Jr., MD, President, NAACLS Board of Directors
Quality: a high level of value or excellence (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quality)
For many persons, “quality” is like art. They know what they like when they see it, but when asked to specify the criteria used to determine “like”, answers are often vague and illogical. The vagueness and illogic comes from the characteristic of assigning “value” when assessing “quality”. Assigning “value” is extremely variable and personal, and is the basis for the cliché “what is treasure to some, is trash to others”. (Just watch the TV shows “Pawn Stars” or “American Pickers” on the History Channel.)
Defining “quality” in healthcare (and specifically clinical laboratory science education) is no less difficult than defining “quality” in art. The perception of “quality” in healthcare is often “in the eyes of the beholder”. The “quality” of healthcare is perceived differently depending upon your perspective (i.e., “quality” is different for physicians versus nurses versus administrators versus patients). In clinical laboratory science education “quality” is perceived differently by students versus faculty versus administrators versus employers of graduates.
To diminish the subjectivity, and insert some objectivity, into the assessment of healthcare “quality”, various agencies have defined “benchmarks”, “performance measures”, or other “standards” to which a healthcare institution’s data regarding process compliance and outcomes can be compared. Thus, a data based assessment can be made, rather than perception, to substantiate the “value or excellence” (i.e. the “quality”) of the institution (or the lack thereof). Likewise, NAACLS Standards, and the NAACLS accreditation process, provide the means by which a clinical laboratory science education program can have a data based decision, rather than perception, to substantiate the “quality” of its program. Programs who choose not to seek accreditation are missing this objective assessment, and are missing a key element to substantiate their presumed “quality”.
Achieving and maintaining accreditation of a clinical laboratory science education program is hard work, requires a certain “overhead” of resources regardless of the size of the program, and requires a continuous systematic review of process compliance and outcomes measurement. (These are core elements of any continuous performance improvement process.) The justification for this effort is based on the reward that achieving accreditation status substantiates the “value and excellence” of a clinical laboratory science education program to students, faculty, administrators, and employers of graduates. When “value and excellence” can be objectively (rather than subjectively) demonstrated, a clinical laboratory science education program is in a stronger position, and is more likely to be supported by students, faculty, administrators, and employers of graduates. Having students, faculty, administrators, and employers of graduates all engaged makes it much easier for a “quality” clinical laboratory science education program to sustain itself and to prosper.
I hope you agree that the “juice” (i.e. being accredited by NAACLS) is worth the “squeeze”. NAACLS accreditation is a key element in substantiating the “quality” of a program.