When I ask “what is your number,” I mean “what is the percentage of time you spend on the bench versus time in the office doing administrative work.” In my laboratory we currently have a chemistry supervisor on extended leave so myself and the hematology supervisor are 90/10 bench/office. I know what you’re thinking, how do you do the administrative portion while working the bench that much? The answer is simply, we can’t. Unless I work 60 hour work weeks there is no humanly possible way to be able to work on the bench and get done what I need to in the office. Prioritizing the administrative duties and taking advantage of slow days on the bench is the number one reason why I am somewhat successful at getting things done.
The biggest challenge I face is competency. One of CLIA’s six competency guidelines is physically watching each technologist/technician perform each test that is on our test menu. So let me break this down. I have 15 employees that need to complete competencies. We perform gel testing in blood bank as well as LISS, PEG, and Pre-warm screens in tube if necessary. Let’s round all of those tests to 45 minutes. 15 employees times 4 different methods is 60, times the 45 minutes is 2700 minutes, or 45 hours. Now don’t forget that I am in the hospital setting which is 24/7 so I have to be available for second and third shift if I want to make sure those employees are competent. So for simplicity sake I’m going to round those hours up to 48 which makes six 8 hour days of competency. If I get two office days a month, competency will take me four months to accomplish and that isn’t counting my other duties. This is also assumes uninterrupted time which we all know happens once a millennia. These are just four tests as well; we perform many others such as antigen testing, long crossmatching, etc. When looking at this it can be overwhelming but there are ways to accomplish the impossible without killing yourself.
One way to help yourself out is to look at the CLIA definitions of who can be a technical supervisor for competency testing. Chances are you have more than one employee who qualifies and as long as you sign them off as competent they can sign off other employees. This can drastically cut down the amount of time you need to spend individually with each employee. Another way is to have the employee’s videotape themselves performing the tests while explaining out loud what they are doing. This not only confirms their competency but you can watch back the tape at your leisure as well as show inspectors if they ask how you satisfy the observation portion of the competency. I now ask you in the comment section below write down your numbers and let me know what your biggest challenges are and some possible solutions. We can help each other out, and share in the continuous struggle. So, what’s your number?
–Matthew Herasuta, MBA, MLS(ASCP)CM is a medical laboratory scientist who works as a generalist and serves as the Blood Bank and General Supervisor for the regional Euclid Hospital in Cleveland, OH.