Revisiting the Cornerstone of Professional Development: The Body of Knowledge

CLMA: When was the Body of Knowledge formulated and what was the motivation behind creating it for laboratories?

PL: The Body of Knowledge was the brainchild of Anne Pontius, President of CLMA, when she proposed assembling a compendium of skill sets to define the competencies (and levels) of a clinical laboratory manager.   Her proposal in 2008-2009 resulted in the formation of a task force chaired by Diana Mass, including a diversity of 10 CLMA members.  I was fortunate to be one of the members while also serving on the CLMA BOD at that time. The task force was charged with presenting a fully developed BOK for ThinkLab 2010

This was very well received by the membership, and with any dynamic comprehensive document, as we received feedback on the initial BOK, a version 2 task force was formed, which I chaired.   This task force was charged with collaborating with the original authors of the 10 domains within the BOK, incorporating the feedback from the members, incorporating further diversity of thought and discipline within the competencies, and development of a BOK self-assessment tool.   Version two BOK and the self-assessment tool was presented at Knowledge 2014. BOK Version 3 followed a similar process for the updates and presented at KnowledgeLab 2017.

CLMA: What is the central purpose of the Body of Knowledge today and why is it so important?

PL: As scientists, we are all aware of the importance in updating our knowledge with the latest in research and proven methodologies to perform quality state of the art testing.    As Clinical Laboratory Managers, we are required to expand our skill set into Human Resources, Business and Clinical Operations, Financial Management and Strategic Planning, to name a few of the 10 domains within the BOK.  

The self-assessment is designed for the individual to review their own knowledge and capabilities, which will vary depending on the stage of your career, hence the BOK levels of Emerging, Developed or Advanced competencies.    This self-assessment proved to be of value, not just to the manager, but also the staff they supervise, to assist with goals and objectives for their own development within their respective careers.

The practical piece of the BOK is the awareness you will not be a master of all domains yet will understand the value of networking and aligning yourself with others that know that much more.  As an example, you will identify someone stronger in Compliance and Risk Management to utilize their knowledge and perhaps be mentored by them, to add to your own toolbox.

The purpose of this Body of Knowledge was to understand all the various responsibilities of being in clinical laboratory management, and to identify areas of personal development. The BOK is your measurement and goal setting tool to advance your knowledge and professional career.

The BOK member assessments also helped CLMA identify educational programs for webinars, workshops, and KnowledgeLab programming.

CLMA: How can laboratory managers use the Body of Knowledge to run their labs more efficiently? Examples?

PL: Management and leadership styles are remarkably diverse. We don't  address leadership styles directly in the Body of Knowledge, yet we do address Professional Development domain competencies.

As you strengthen your knowledge and skill set utilizing the 10 domains, it would lead to more laboratory efficiency, when utilizing Financial Management Competency 2 for sound business operations and knowledge of current reimbursements for services,  or utilizing Business and Clinical Operations Competency 3 to develop work process improvements, reducing variability, and minimizing errors.

CLMA: Why do you think clinical laboratory managers should continue to refer to the Body of Knowledge as they navigate day to day challenges?

PL: Looking at the laboratory challenges this year (2020), one of the resources for clinical lab managers has been the Body of Knowledge.   If you had utilized the BOK in your personal development, then you had expanded your professional network established through achieving the BOK competencies.

When you're trying to figure out, for example, how to manage the drop in volume of overall lab testing that we've seen on one hand, with a skyrocketing of a specific test in our laboratory, and also, under the public eye microscope in the daily news, this scenario covers all 10 domains within the BOK! This pandemic is so unusual for a clinical laboratory in the US due to the varied approach taken at the Federal and State levels, so each lab has had to fend on their own, unless they were part of a bigger professional network.

Laboratories also participate in various health care crisis scenarios as a team within their organization, yet this pandemic has zeroed in specifically in the testing capabilities.   The BOK, whether utilizing Strategic PlanningInformation ManagementQuality Management, or Governance and Organizational Dynamics places any clinical laboratory manager in a much better position to address this challenge.

COVID-19 presented an opportunity for the clinical laboratory to demonstrate our professionalism. I believe the BOK has been very essential for clinical laboratory managers to further promote our value within the overall health care team.

We grew up as clinical laboratory scientists and, as such, tended to be solely focused on the specific science in the lab, perhaps without engaging in our external environment.

We are moving towards more interactivity through Medical Decision Support, Information Technology, Quality Management for Patient Safety, and more!

CLMA: Do you think that adhering to the Body of Knowledge and expanding proficiencies in that way will now help mitigate the effects of another pandemic or something of that severity should it happen again?

You bring up a particularly good point with actions on potential future events. As mentioned earlier, the BOK is a dynamic document, having already produced three versions.  I would hope another task force is formed soon within CLMA to address the lessons learned from this pandemic.  The BOK Medical Decision Support still needs further development within the listed competencies, yet all 10 domains would likely have competency updates developed from the lessons learned with Covid-19.

I recently consulted with Heart to Heart International and was presented with an opportunity to teach  PHIA (Population Bases HIV Impact Assessment) Fellows working in Africa and Haiti.  At their conference in Zambia Africa,  I brought along the Body of Knowledge as a guidebook and resource for them.

These are scientists working within various health care teams of the CDC, Africa CDC, WHO and varied governmental organizations, so they needed guidance and resources working within such a diverse group.   Communication is so essential in these types of situations, further complicated through cultural and language barriers.   Yet the BOK is easily translated to set a good foundation for any clinical laboratory scientist.

CLMA: Do you have any additional thoughts you’d like to share regarding the Body of Knowledge?

PL: There was a lot of hard work put into the development of the Body of Knowledge, and I believe it is increased in value.   Yes, it may be time for a revision again, because our world is dynamic (think 2020), yet we have such a good foundation from which to continue to build from.   I have been a long-time member of CLMA because of the values generated by a great team of professionals learning from each other.  I look forward to continued advancements within our clinical laboratory field through our collective body of knowledge!

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