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Category: WSLH PT Blog


Bringing you clinical lab features, news, and updates via the WSLH PT Blog! If you are interested in receiving an email digest of news along with curated staff picks from around the internet, sign up for WSLH PT’s monthly newsletter, The MedLab Retriever.

Enrolling with Multiple PT Providers: One Lab’s Personal Strategy

When Julie Steele stepped into her laboratory manager role a little over five years ago, she had served as the lead tech, performing proficiency testing (PT) for over 20 years. Her laboratory decided to enroll with CAP and WSLH PT as a way to optimize her laboratory’s PT process and address specific issues.

Julie Steele, Laboratory Manager at HSHS St. Nicholas Hospital in Sheboygan, Wisconsin provides her life-long career insights to help other decision-makers gauge if having a secondary PT provider is beneficial for their laboratory.

We bring some of these insights into focus through Steele’s 25+ years of experience in conducting PT. WSLH Proficiency Testing hopes the information and experience shared below will provide you with insight into the benefits of enrolling your laboratory with more than one PT provider.

Each year before enrollment, Julie Steele and her staff review and compare clinical proficiency testing product catalogs side-by-side to determine which programs are the best fit for their laboratory. Assessing testing needs and reviewing program offerings is an ongoing process to find the best fit for her laboratory. Julie explains that using two PT providers helps her find more options that meets her laboratory’s needs.

”For instance, say you’ve got all your PT results submitted, and the report shows that all of them have shifted to the low end. Then, you can use the same test from another PT provider to further investigate and compare. We certainly have ordered the same test with CAP and WSLH Proficiency Testing to compare the results from each test,” said Steele.

Enrolling with one proficiency testing provider as your primary provider for score transmission purposes and another PT provider for the same analyte or test for quality assurance or troubleshooting purposes puts your lab in a better situation should you encounter PT failures and need to quickly address them. Julie Steele’s relationship with both PT providers assures that she has quick access to ordering available samples off-schedule or for quality assurance. To prepare your laboratory, consider contacting another PT provider about ordering such samples before you encounter certain testing scenarios.

Regarding a laboratory’s cost-effectiveness goals, Julie Steele says that enrolling with two PT providers every year has helped her laboratory keep costs down as much as possible. Cost-effectiveness is crucial; so, carefully evaluate pricing models, annual processing fees, and other indirect costs such as allotting staff time for testing when budgeting for PT enrollment. Consider the overall value provided by each provider in terms of the quality of the program and the level of support offered.

“When you are spending thousands of dollars every year on proficiency testing samples, you take cost into consideration. WSLH Proficiency Testing is a lot more reasonable when evaluating cost-effectiveness,” Julie says. She adds that cost comparison is important, but also emphasizes the importance of carefully reading the PT provider’s sample handling instructions in order to avoid the unexpected costs that come with ordering any available replacement samples.


This article presents some of Julie Steele’s strategies employed at her laboratory to help decision-makers who are considering enrolling in two or more PT providers. When choosing one or more PT providers, assess your laboratory’s needs, consider testing offerings and frequency, and compare pricing and cost-effectiveness. With a closer look at one lab manager’s strategies, we take into account several other reasons that having a secondary PT provider is beneficial.

Enrolling with Two PT Providers by Regulated and Non-Regulated Analytes

Enrolling in two PT providers a year can help laboratories organize their testing programs in other cost-effective ways. For instance, some laboratories choose to enroll with one PT provider for all of their regulated analytes. They then choose to enroll with a secondary PT provider for their non-regulated analytes. For some laboratories, depending on their needs, separating their regulated and non-regulated analytes by PT provider makes it easier for them to manage their proficiency testing.  

Using Multiple PT Providers for Transitional Periods

Intentionally enrolling in the same challenge with two different PT providers can help during transitional periods or staff changes. Laboratories may experience a loss of PT knowledge when a staff member or manager retires or moves.  

Accreditation and Accepted Analytes:

Please make sure the selected provider(s) are:

Additional resources:

CMS list of non-waived testing that requires PT:

FAQs about the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) for Proficiency Testing:

WSLH PT’s overview of proficiency testing:

This article is featured in our monthly newsletter, The MedLab Retriever. Sign up to receive your digest of clinical lab news, memes, and more:


Bringing you clinical lab features, news, and updates via the WSLH PT Blog! If you are interested in receiving an email digest of news along with curated staff picks from around the internet, sign up for WSLH PT’s monthly newsletter, The MedLab Retriever.

The Power of Support Networks

Strategies, Resources, and Benefits for Clinical Laboratory Professionals

In the fast-paced and demanding field of clinical laboratory medicine, building a strong support network is crucial for the success and well-being of professionals. Support networks, comprising colleagues, mentors, and industry peers, offer a multitude of strategies and resources that are beneficial to professional growth, knowledge enhancement, and overall career satisfaction.

In a previous article, WSLH Proficiency Testing has explored making connections with peers through networking events, such as attending conferences and seminars. Certainly, these recurring annual events provide us the space to engage in conversations, share experiences, and exchange contact information to cultivate meaningful connections. However, sometimes our unique role, a transitional phase, or a new laboratory setting can make it challenging to find the support we need. 

In this article, we broaden our focus on building a professional support network as a clinical laboratory professional. Through an exploration of effective strategies, we highlight valuable resources and outline the significant benefits creating a professional support network brings.

Online Learning Communities: Getting connected with others through sharing knowledge and expertise is a wonderful way to build a network of support for yourself as a laboratory professional. Join professional forums, social media groups, and other online platforms dedicated to clinical laboratory professionals. Professional associations such as ASCLS and AACC have discussion forums accessible to members through login-based access on their websites. On LinkedIn, professional associations such as ASCP, ASCLS, and ACCC have listed groups as well as industry media like the Medical Laboratory Observer and Lab Manager Magazine.

Webinars can also offer a setting where you can make connections with peers and industry experts. During a webinar, when someone is asking or sharing questions that are relevant to your laboratory’s needs, consider sending them a message if a chat feature is enabled. You can request that you can reach out to them about a similar issue you are having. Sometimes finding support outside of your workplace can provide you and your laboratory with the insight needed to create needed shifts in your practices and policies. It’s also wonderful to know that you have another person who is willing to talk through issues with you, and is just one email or call away.

Mentorship Programs: Mentor-mentee relationships can also be another beneficial dimension of your overall professional support network. Mentorship relationships help professionals gain insights, receive career advice, reduce workplace stress, and expand professional networks. There are professional associations that also have mentorship programs that create an excellent structure for mentor/mentee relationships to form. For example, when you apply with the ASCP Mentorship Program or ASCLS Mentorship Program, you gain access to their Mentorship Directory based on specific skills and experience. From there, you can request meetings to explore a mentorship relationship with potential mentors/mentees.

Workplace Engagement: Getting to know your team better is an important, often overlooked practice in building a support network to reduce burnout and maintain staff engagement. According to a recent article in Forbes, organizations have cited employee experience and mental health as the difference makers in improving engagement, retention, and productivity. While mental health comes with limitations with respect to worker privacy, laboratory managers can ensure steps are taken to improve employee well-being.

While it is not crucial to be best friends with all of our coworkers, having friendships and fostering social connection in your work life is one key factor to overall employee well-being. Forming engagement committees at work to foster social connection can be beneficial to improving social well-being, a key aspect of employee well-being overall. As a division of the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene, WSLH Proficiency Testing participates in our laboratory’s engagement committee, hosting weekly and monthly board game meet-ups, annual picnics, and sporting event outings to name a few. 


The challenges of the clinical laboratory profession can be overwhelming. Building a support network is an invaluable investment for clinical laboratory professionals. As clinical laboratory professionals navigate their careers, a strong support network becomes an essential pillar of success, leading to personal fulfillment and the advancement of the field as a whole.

A support network facilitates knowledge sharing, emotional support, career advancement, collaboration, and professional development. Colleagues and mentors can provide valuable advice and share experiences to help navigate professional challenges. By adopting effective strategies, leveraging available resources, and actively engaging with colleagues, mentors, and industry peers, professionals can foster collaboration, inspires new ideas, and drives professional growth to effectively meet and exceed organizational goals.

This article is featured in our monthly newsletter, The MedLab Retriever. Sign up to receive your digest of clinical lab news, memes, and more:


Bringing you clinical lab features, news, and updates via the WSLH PT Blog! If you are interested in receiving an email digest of news along with curated staff picks from around the internet, sign up for WSLH PT’s monthly newsletter, The MedLab Retriever.

Lab Leadership at a Rural Hospital

Vicky Norrish and her path to laboratory management

When Vicky Norrish was 15 years old, she was in a near-fatal car accident. Needless to say, she spent a lot of time that year in the hospital. From bedside care to having her blood tested, her journey to healing instilled in her a passion for healthcare. By the time she was ready to graduate, Vicky had a broad understanding of all individual roles involved in caring for a patient. She had contemplated pharmacy school, but took a microbiology class in college and fell in love with science. It was this love that would bring her to the world of laboratory medicine.

“I knew the lab was a perfect fit for me. I could still work in healthcare and help people in a way that brought me a lot of life satisfaction, said Vicky.” Today, Vicky Norrish, MLS (ASCP), CHC serves as the Director of Regulatory Compliance and Laboratory Services for Grinnell Regional Medical Center (GRMC) of the UnityPoint Health system in Iowa.  

When Vicky started as a bench generalist, there was a job opening in infection prevention at the hospital. It was a sign, she thought, to try something different. She convinced the hospital that they needed to hire a laboratorian for the job rather than a nurse. Vicky did not expect that her 10 years of work in infection prevention would morph into the quality management work she does today.

Carving Her Unique Path to Laboratory Management 

As Vicky progressed through her career, she took on different roles and responsibilities. Her extensive experience in compliance, regulatory accreditation, and HIPAA privacy procedures led her to GRMC as their compliance leader. During that time, the hospital posted an opening for a laboratory director.  Vicky saw this as a sign to marry the two kinds of work that she really enjoys: laboratory and compliance.

Vicky Norrish, laboratory leader in laboratory management at a rural hospital in Grinnell, Iowa. Serving in a rural hospital gave Vicky a fairly unique career trajectory to her role today. From drawing blood to managing the front desk, Vicky eventually found her own cadence in this unique position of being both a laboratory manager and a regulatory compliance professional. She also has a lengthy list of unexpected responsibilities, such as overseeing the occupational medicine department and contracted services, like food and nutrition and the sleep lab.

“Combining these two roles was a little daunting at first but worthwhile,” said Vicky.  “My work keeps me challenged and I get to do something different every day. That’s exciting to me. The staff I have are high performers. So, I really just have to go be their biggest cheerleader and supporter.”

A Great Quality Assurance Practice

What helps her staff maintain a solid quality assurance process is documentation, specifically a system of accountability checklists. Each laboratory and department area has its own unique schedule of tasks to remember, from maintenance to documenting everything properly. To help create a seamless workflow within each of her departments, Vicky created these checklists for all areas of the laboratory and each checklist includes daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly responsibilities.

“You know, I wasn’t really sure if I was going to receive complaints from staff after implementing these checklists, but it turns out people really seem to like them,” said Vicky. She found that it helped everyone be more successful at their job, knowing exactly what they need to accomplish at the start of their shifts. She adds that it is important to make sure your staff feels supported. 

Finding Your Laboratory Management Network

Throughout Vicky’s time as a laboratory manager, she has found a strong network of managers at other laboratories that support each other. She advises that if you are new to laboratory management, connect with the managers at laboratories in surrounding communities. Creating a network of support is important, especially in staffing challenges where you yourself are figuring out your workflow as a laboratory manager. 

Helpful Laboratory Management Links

For resources on laboratory management and training support, visit some of the following sites:

Lab Manager:

American Society for Microbiology: A Day in the Life of a Lab Manager or Supervisor

CDC Laboratory Training: OneLab Reach

Wisconsin Clinical Laboratory Network:

WSLH PT Training and Competency:

American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC): New Paths to Leadership for the Clinical Laboratorian




This article is featured in our monthly newsletter, The MedLab Retriever. Sign up to receive your digest of clinical lab news, memes, and more:


Bringing you clinical lab features, news, and updates via the WSLH PT Blog! If you are interested in receiving an email digest of news along with curated staff picks from around the internet, sign up for WSLH PT’s monthly newsletter, The MedLab Retriever.

Celebrating Your Contributions to Healthcare

Happy Medical Laboratory Professionals Week!

Medical Laboratory Professionals Week is a time when we increase public awareness of our profession, highlighting our contributions to healthcare. We also celebrate our staff by sharing our appreciation – laboratory professionals get results! This year, Lab Week is on April 23-29. Professional associations, like ASCP and ASCLS encourage us to honor and celebrate ourselves as well as our coworkers. There are lots of great ideas and resources for how to celebrate your coworkers. How do you celebrate yourself during Lab Week? In this article, WSLH Proficiency Testing shares a few ideas and resources that can help us cultivate an appreciation for ourselves (and each other) as medical laboratory professionals. Recognizing your unique contributions and sharing your appreciation with others, in turn, can deepen the public’s awareness of our important role in providing accurate, timely testing results. 

Happy Medical Laboratory Professionals Week

Recognizing our value
We know our value in healthcare. There are statistics and other important information that show the public our impact. What is often even more impactful is sharing why and how we value what we do. When we take time to self-reflect, we strengthen our appreciation for ourselves. If we are able to better express our appreciation, others will appreciate us too.

Reflecting on our growth
You can start this process of self-reflection by thinking about how much you have grown as a laboratory professional. Your education and training have prepared you to perform complex tasks safely. You may look at trainings and courses and think about how they have helped you produce accurate, reliable, and timely results. Reflecting on your commitment to professional development can help you appreciate your contributions. With increased appreciation, you are more willing to share appreciation with others. Sharing your appreciation with the public invites them to recognize and celebrate what you do as a lab professional.

Go ahead, treat yourself
Thinking about the ways you have grown, or how you continue to challenge yourself is a great way to start brainstorming how to celebrate yourself during Lab Week. For example, maybe you helped develop a mentoring program to support new employees and strengthen teamwork. During Lab Week, you could play your favorite cooperative board game with your coworkers to celebrate teamwork. You know yourself best in what gives you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Creating your own personal recognition activity can also support ways to recognize and celebrate coworkers and employees more meaningfully.

The power of employee recognition
When you encourage yourself and others to also celebrate in meaningful ways, you foster authentic connections and help others see their value as team members. In a recent survey on employee recognition conducted by Great Place To Work, 37% of respondents said that more personal recognition would encourage them to produce better work results more often. Neuroscience certainly backs up this statement, with research that illustrates how both predictable and randomized reward systems support happier, more motivated work environments. Below, we provide one example of how you can celebrate yourself in a way that helps everyone see the bigger picture, to see the contributions of laboratory professionals to quality patient care.

Expressing gratitude, expressing value
Practicing gratitude can be a great way to illustrate your unique contributions to quality patient care. For each day during Lab Week, try sharing 1-3 things that you are grateful for as a laboratory professional. Don’t forget, you can include your team members on this list! Write them down on paper, on a whiteboard, or post them on social media, for example. Expressing gratitude is one way you can share your role, experiences, and expertise. Sharing deepens awareness and increases our appreciation of our contributions. This simple practice can generate new perspectives, as you recognize how you personally value the profession. Who knows, you may have a positive experience that will compel your workplace to continue this practice with you, year-round. You may be surprised how simple expressions of thankfulness can inspire others to do their best in the workplace.

Recognition and celebration are powerful motivators that help us feel connected and engaged with our work. How you celebrate Lab Week this year can be a great way to set the tone for how you support yourself, year-round. The more recognition and appreciation we give each other, the more meaningful our celebrations will be. Sharing why you celebrate Lab Week also gives others a closer look at the importance of the medical laboratory profession. WSLH Proficiency Testing is grateful for your dedication and significant contributions to the health and safety of our communities. Happy Medical Laboratory Professionals Week from our team at WSLH PT to yours.

Learn more about Lab Week and download resources on the following websites:

American Association for Clinical Pathology (ASCP): Lab Week (

American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS): Medical Laboratory Professionals Week – ASCLS

American Medical Technologists (AMT): Celebrate Medical Laboratory Professionals Week


Bringing you clinical lab features, news, and updates via the WSLH PT Blog! If you are interested in receiving an email digest of news along with curated staff picks from around the internet, sign up for WSLH PT’s monthly newsletter, The MedLab Retriever.

Meet Our Sewage Sleuths

Wastewater Surveillance at WSLH and Our Impact on Public Health

Everyone poops — a universal fact that has long provided information on disease spread in communities. For two and half years, the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH) has tracked SARS-CoV-2 and its variants in Wisconsin’s sewage. Our laboratory’s findings in wastewater have provided public health officials in Wisconsin with a more detailed picture of the virus that other forms of testing cannot easily capture. This nuanced data can lead to a timelier public health response to outbreaks in the future.

WSLH Proficiency Testing is a part of the WSLH, a national public, environmental, and occupational health laboratory. We keep you up-to-date on WSLH’s advancements in public health, to lift up our shared work in improving patient care and the overall health of our communities.

During the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the partnership formed between the Wastewater Surveillance Team and communities across Wisconsin resulted in the creation of a robust wastewater surveillance system. The participation of wastewater treatment plants and municipal workers in the program is crucial for sample collection and data analysis to track SARS-CoV-2 variants. The WSLH team says keeping wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) enrolled in the program may be the biggest challenge going forward.

“Their [WWTP] participation needs to be better recognized and acknowledged because they are essential to the program,” said Adelaide Roguet, Water Microbiology Scientist at WSLH. “No samples, no data.” As they strengthen their collaborations in Wisconsin, the Wastewater Surveillance Team is working with other surveillance networks in the United States to coordinate a nationwide effort.

The WSLH Wastewater Surveillance Team is expanding its efforts, helping other public health laboratories develop their own wastewater surveillance systems. Last year, the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) released a guide to help public health labs build wastewater surveillance programs. WSLH senior scientist Martin Shafter contributed a significant wealth of information to this guide. He says that the experience of the Wastewater Surveillance Team informed his contributions to this guide. Expanding wastewater surveillance efforts across the United States can help direct public health efforts to lessen the spread of variants.

We are excited about the progress we have made in developing a wastewater surveillance network in Wisconsin,” says Adelaide Roguet, Water Microbiology Scientist at WSLH. “We are particularly excited about following seasonal flu and RSV this winter and adding gastrointestinal and antibiotic-resistance pathogens in the near future.”

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our scientists have understood the importance of wastewater surveillance as an epidemiological tool. One of the unique applications of wastewater surveillance is the ability to find those who carry a completely new virus before it spreads in the community. Nature magazine outlined such findings from the lab’s collaborative effort, detailing the search for a cryptic SARS-CoV-2 variant in Wisconsin. Supporting the expansion of these efforts will be crucial to creating a coordinated testing effort to stop the spread of pandemic outbreaks and test the efficacy of vaccines in the future.

WSLH Proficiency Testing hopes the benefits of the WSLH Wastewater Surveillance program to Wisconsin communities will inspire more laboratories nationwide to join the wastewater surveillance journey. WSLH Proficiency Testing is just one division among a mighty group of public health champions at the WSLH laboratory. We keep you up-to-date on public health advancements at WSLH, shining a bright spot on our shared work to better the health and well-being of our communities.


Bringing you clinical lab features, news, and updates via the WSLH PT Blog! If you are interested in receiving an email digest of news along with curated staff picks from around the internet, sign up for WSLH PT’s monthly newsletter, The MedLab Retriever.

Networking Tips For Laboratory Professionals

Imagine that you are at a conference, full of clinical laboratory professionals.
Ready to start networking?

When we network, we meet people for more information or professional contacts. However, networking is not easy, even with many years of career experience. In this article, we have provided you a list of resources to help you make better use of your next networking event. Which networking tips for laboratory professionals do you find the most helpful? Sometimes it is helpful to start by asking ourselves a few questions.

Do you want to network to:

  • recruit more laboratory staff?
  • create new, innovative scientific partnerships?
  • solve testing problems in your laboratory?

Reading about the benefits and strategies of networking can help us identify goals and create action steps to accomplish them.  So, grab a stack of your business cards, and let’s get started.

Networking Tips for Laboratory Professionals: A Different Perspective
Sign up to watch 3 free webinars on how to network, and why it is important for clinical laboratory professionals. Learn conversational strategies for networking in person and on LinkedIn. Please click this link to register for the first webinar in this series:

ASCP Members Can Reap the Benefits of Local Chapters
In this article, medical technologists talk about the benefits of going to local chapter meetings. Please click the link to read this article:

Networking on LinkedIn: Why You Should and How to Do It
You do not need to be very active on social media to find LinkedIn useful for your own purposes. LinkedIn has grown a lot as a professional social network since its start in 2003. With over 800 million users worldwide, LinkedIn offers endless networking and learning opportunities. This article discusses the many uses of LinkedIn to help you reach your goals. Please click this link to read the article:

Strategies for Laboratory Professionals to Drive Laboratory Stewardship
This article discusses developing formalized networks of organizational support for laboratories. Read about creating laboratory stewardship groups to improve patient care across health systems. Please click this link to read the article:

Whether you are new or have been a professional for decades, there are many resources to help us network. In this article, we have provided a small number of networking tips for laboratory professionals as a launchpad to help you plan. The resources that we have shared included some of the following shared ideas about networking:

  1. Knowledge-sharing:
    We share (and receive) news, advice, and guidance in professional circles and other networking spaces. Sometimes we learn from others and ourselves in surprising or unexpected ways!
  2. Career Advancement:
    In networking spaces, we meet other people who can help us grow in our careers, or find new job opportunities. Being curious and asking for help are two actions we can take to help us create new opportunities for career advancement.
  3. Innovative Solutions:
    We often gain new perspectives in conversation with others. Our creative intellect improves when we have strong professional and social circles. Increased creative cognition helps us solve problems or improve practices in our workspaces.

Reading about positive experiences and outcomes from networking motivates us to do more. Are you planning to attend a conference or another networking event soon? View our calendar to see where WSLH Proficiency Testing will be this spring. We look forward to seeing you at one of these conferences. In the meantime, we invite you to connect with us and our staff members on LinkedIn.

This article is featured in our monthly newsletter, The MedLab Retriever. Sign up to receive your digest of clinical lab news, memes, and more:


Bringing you clinical lab features, news, and updates via the WSLH PT Blog! If you are interested in receiving an email digest of news along with curated staff picks from around the internet, sign up for WSLH PT’s monthly newsletter, The MedLab Retriever.

Even A PT Provider May Experience An Audit

What policies and processes are in place in your laboratory? In preparation for a laboratory inspection, this is the question you have at the forefront of your mind. We also have this question at the forefront of our minds too, but for different intentions and outcomes. A proficiency testing provider may experience a routine audit, as well as annual reviews of accepted analytes conducted by an accreditation agency, such as those conducted by the College of American Pathologists (CAP). The purpose of a proficiency testing audit is to provide you with the best experience when it comes to participating in our proficiency testing services. These processes of review and approval assure that you can use our proficiency testing services alongside your accreditation agency. In this article, we share with you an overview of the auditing process, and how it impacts you, the clinical laboratory.

An Inside Look at a PT provider

The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) of 1988 are today’s standards for compliance and accreditation. Following the passage of CLIA ’88, laboratories that are reporting clinical results are mandated by law to attain CLIA certification with CMS. All CLIA-certified labs are also required to perform proficiency testing on regulated analytes with any CMS-approved proficiency testing provider.  Accreditation agencies are approved to act on behalf of CMS as an accrediting body. In response, the College of American Pathologists, developed a routine process as an accreditation agency to accept PT providers. This process assures that any CAP-accredited laboratory may enroll with any PT provider that meets CAP’s requirements regarding the acceptability of materials, scoring processes, and transmission of data. Today, when CAP-accredited laboratories are choosing a PT provider, they are determining if the PT provider and the analytes they need are accepted by CAP.

In order for WSLH Proficiency Testing to be a CAP-accepted PT provider, CAP representatives audit WSLH PT services every 3 years. During the auditing process, WSLH PT shares data with CAP from laboratories that choose CAP for accreditation. The following are the kinds of questions WSLH PT answers in a CAP audit:

  1. Are laboratories getting the information they need?
  2. Is the information presented in such a way that is easy to understand?
  3. Does the PT provider maintain consistency in how their technical coordinators evaluate data?

CAP representatives conclude the audit by visiting our office at the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene in Madison, Wisconsin. This day-long visit includes a shared review and discussion of key findings in data. Review and discussion of data offer insights into issues that laboratories may be encountering throughout the proficiency testing process.

All regulated analytes that CAP-accredited laboratories select from a PT provider must pass through an annual approval process to be CAP-accepted. If an analyte is CAP-accepted, then CAP will accept the score transmission of a CAP-accredited laboratory from the PT provider. Every year PT providers have the opportunity to apply for CAP acceptance for an analyte by filling out a form and submitting it by July for potential approval the following year. At the very minimum, PT providers must have 20 data points for three events in a row for quantitative analytes. For qualitative analytes, PT providers need 10 data points for three events in a row. Beyond the review of grading data, there are other criteria that CAP uses in determining the acceptability of regulated analytes. The other information that CAP requests from PT providers include, but are not limited to:

  1. Instrumentation, methods used, and number of participants
  2. Participant summary data for events
  3. Number of challenges and shipments per year
  4. Supporting documentation for analyte specifications and event data
  5. A statement that all material vendors comply with specified product manufacturing standards

Not all regulated analytes offered by PT providers are approved by CAP; so, laboratories that want to use their materials to meet CAP’s accreditation requirements must first check with the appropriate PT providers. If you review WSLH Proficiency Testing’s clinical product catalog, you will see that any analytes that are not accepted by CAP are noted with an asterisk (*). When CAP-accredited laboratories approach WSLH PT to enroll, they know which analytes will meet their regulations with the CAP Laboratory Accreditation Program.

Routine audits and annual analyte acceptance conducted by CAP assure that we can serve and provide options to CAP-accredited laboratories. Aligning our services and processes with the CAP Laboratory Accreditation Program not only benefits CAP-accredited laboratories but all clinical laboratories that enroll with WSLH Proficiency Testing. Whether or not CAP is your accreditation agency, the findings we review in a CAP audit help us assure that our materials, from general instructions to evaluation reports and policies, are accurate, clear, and concise for all laboratories.  This inside look into our partnership with CAP provides some insight into how we pursue collaboration, usability, and continual development to lay a solid foundation for laboratory improvement.

This article is featured in our monthly newsletter, The MedLab Retriever. Sign up to receive your digest of clinical lab news, memes, and more:


Bringing you clinical lab features, news, and updates via the WSLH PT Blog! If you are interested in receiving an email digest of news along with curated staff picks from around the internet, sign up for WSLH PT’s monthly newsletter, The MedLab Retriever.

Free P.A.C.E. CE Webinar on Proficiency Testing

Watch our webinar for an opportunity to receive a free CE credit upon completion

So, you’ve failed a proficiency test–now what? While it may be difficult to move to a course of action in the moment, preparing for this scenario ahead of time can give clinical laboratory professionals the tools we need to do so, with more ease. WSLH Proficiency Testing is offering you access to a new ASCLS P.A.C.E. certified webinar, developed in partnership with the Wisconsin Clinical Laboratory Network (WCLN)

This webinar aims to help participants know how to follow-up, prepare, and prevent common scenarios in clinical proficiency testing. While this webinar was originally created for the WCLN, WSLH Proficiency Testing is now offering you the same educational opportunity. We hope that this webinar will provide you with useful information to share with your staff. You may access and progress through the webinar at your own pace. Upon completion, you will have an opportunity to earn a free CE credit.

At the end of this webinar, participants will be able to:

  1.  Identify clinical proficiency testing best practice
  2.  Increase knowledge of labs’ experiences with conducting proficiency testing
  3. Explain what a laboratory must do when they have a proficiency testing failure

Participants will be able to take away key insights from WSLH Proficiency Testing’s technical coordinators serving on the webinar panel: Ann Hennings, MLS (ASCP) and Rhonda Stauske, MLS (ASCP). This P.A.C.E. certified webinar is graded at an intermediate level, meaning the educational content serves mostly as a refresher course with some basic knowledge of proficiency testing required for a participant to successfully complete the program objectives.

Oh no! I’ve failed a proficiency testNow what? webinar
Please click the following link to access the free, archived P.A.C.E certified webinar
for an opportunity to earn a C.E. credit upon completion:

You will need to login (or register for free, if you are not a member) on the ASCLS CE Organizer webpage in order to claim your free CE credit. Once logged in, please click the Claim Credit tab in the top navigation bar. Then click on the ASCLS State and Regional tab to locate ASLCS-Wisconsin. You will find the webinar listed by date for November 2nd, 2022. Check the box to the right to select this credit. You will be prompted to enter in the information needed from there. 

free CE credit image

Over the past few months, our technical coordinators at WSLH Proficiency Testing collaborated with other experts at the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene (WSLH) to support an educational training opportunity, as part of a series of educational webinars offered by and for a network of clinical labs in Wisconsin. This network of clinical labs is known as the Wisconsin Clinical Laboratory Network (WCLN), which is coordinated by Erin Bowles, MLS (ASCP), who we featured in an article last year about her unique role as a medical laboratory professional in providing outreach and support to clinical labs throughout the State of Wisconsin. We also featured the history of the WCLN, which offers outreach and resources to support emergency preparedness, disease surveillance, laboratory diagnostics, training and education, and communications. WSLH Proficiency Testing collaborates with other entities at WSLH to add value to the labs we serve. From our most recent collaboration with the WCLN, we hope you find this webinar to be a helpful resource for your staff.

As part of WSLH Proficiency Testing’s mission to improve laboratory quality for all, providing educational opportunities to promote career competency and achieve leadership development goals are very important to us in our unique role as a PT provider that is backed by a national public health lab and a Big Ten University. To learn more about other resources we offer labs, please view our resources page on our website at: If you are interested in online training and competency courses to offer to your entire staff as a benefit for their professional development, please keep in mind WSLH PT’s comprehensive offerings of online training and competency MLS courses.

If you have any questions about the content we cover in this free PACE certified webinar, please do not hesitate to reach out to WSLH Proficiency Testing: Our team is happy to help yours, anytime. Supporting the quality of your lab is our mission.

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Paving the way for future MLS professionals

Chemist takes new apprenticeship route to Medical Laboratory Science certification

If you’ve swam at Hoyt Park, or dipped your toes in the water along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Milwaukee, you’ve got laboratory professionals to thank for monitoring water quality day-after-day. For the past four years, Rebeca Pinhancos had been responsible during summers for testing and monitoring microcystins in the city’s lakes. Primarily, she worked in Lead analysis as a chemist at the City of Milwaukee Public Health Department (MPHD). At this point in her life, she knew she needed a change in her career. Nearly a decade ago, Rebeca started her educational journey in Analytical Chemistry at UW-Madison. Then, what drew her to her studies was the desire to solve problems using the power of scientific inquiry and analysis. Today, it is this very same desire that pulls her back to learn more, but this time while she works. 

Rebeca began to research job positions at hospitals, and had discovered that degrees specializing in clinical laboratory science exist! She learned that many, if not most, certified medical laboratory scientists obtained their educational requirement for certification this way. Little did she know that during her research she would find an alternative path to certification through the State of Wisconsin’s first and only Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) apprenticeship program.

Rebeca Pinhancos is one of the first two participants in the MLS apprenticeship program, which was launched in January 2022 by Mike Baron at Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories (WDL). At the time of hire, Rebeca knew she was going to be an excellent asset and have a lot of growth opportunity from the start, with her degree and 10 years of experience in Liquid Chromatography, Mass Spectrometry (LCMS). She was pleasantly surprised to learn several months later on the job that WDL would be directly supporting her track to certification by offering her inaugural participation in the MLS apprenticeship program. The MLS apprenticeship program, was designed to provide an alternative path to certification for individuals with relevant science degrees. The apprenticeship model, applied as a recruitment and retention strategy within the Clinical Laboratory Science profession, may provide the kind of quality training, instruction, support, and institutional capacity-building to help address the problem of staffing shortages at clinical laboratories.

“When I was approached with the apprenticeship proposal, I thought, wow, you are also going to pay for my schooling too?! That’s great,” Rebeca said. Rebeca added that when she started attending classes at MATC, she ran into one of her former students, who was very surprised to see her there heading to a classroom, and not as an instructor this time. Before coming to work for WDL in 2021, Rebeca also served as an Instructor of Biochemistry at Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) for a two years. Attending MATC under the apprenticeship program certainly has given Rebeca a lot of unique perspective, having now both attended and taught classes at the institution.

“I am really grateful that the coursework is an important component of my experience as an apprentice. You really need the coursework to put the bench work into context,” said Rebeca. “You can train people to run the benches; but, if you encounter something unexpected and you do not know why it happened, the coursework aids you in readily identifying the problem, and how to pivot to find a solution.” With just over 75% of the apprenticeship program completed, Rebeca will begin preparing for the exam to become certified in Chemistry in 2023. Afterwards, once she gets enough qualifying hours on the Hematology bench, she will take the exam to become certified in Hematology.

She is looking forward to the next cohort of apprentices at Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories. “With any new program, there is more opportunity to improve and grow,” Rebeca said, adding that she is grateful to be a part of that experience, and to extend what she’s learned to the new participants next year. “I really like the idea of alternative approaches to Clinical Laboratory Science. It’s kind of how we have to operate these days,” Rebeca said. “Not everyone starting out school is going to know that they want to be working at a hospital as a clinical laboratory scientist.” 

For qualified candidates interested in joining the MLS apprenticeship program, individuals with a relevant science degree, in chemistry or biology for example, are encouraged to visit WDL’s career webpage and explore their non-certified technologist positions currently open. Apprentices are hired on a rolling basis, as non-certified positions become available. On-the-job training begins once hired, with classroom instruction beginning at the start of the new semester. To learn more about Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories, visit:



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Growing MLS Certified Leadership

New Apprenticeship Program Aiming To Make MLS Career A Dream Come True For Many

It was the 1980s. Mike Baron had freshly stepped out active service in the armed forces, and with a wife, a child, and another child on the way. Mike was hungry for a job, but not just any job. With a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) degree on his resume, Mike had been exploring many different employment avenues, but none of the options that he had encountered at the time were particularly fulfilling, or paid enough to support his growing family. One day, Mike saw an advertisement in a local Illinois paper for the Rockford Memorial Hospital, announcing that they were hiring individuals with BS degrees to become certified Medical Laboratory Technologists through on-the-job experience. Mike was hired, and placed under the supervision of certified Medical Technologists for a year before becoming certified himself. Mike could clearly see that this was a place that could provide him growth in his career, and where he could make a real impact on life-saving healthcare. That is how Mike Baron, Executive Director of Clinical Laboratory Operations at Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories, got his start as a medical laboratory professional over 30 years ago. Mike says that he is living proof that taking an alternative route to becoming a certified Medical Laboratory Technologist is a viable and beneficial option, and wanted to extend the same opportunity today. This year, through the establishment of Wisconsin’s first and only Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) Apprenticeship program, Mike is collaboratively repaving the route to certification that he took decades ago, aiming to provide a more sustainable way to address staffing shortages and assure the longevity of the profession.

In partnership with the State of Wisconsin and Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), Mike and the rest of his team at Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories (WDL) launched the MLS Apprenticeship program in January 2022. Individuals with science degrees from an accredited four-year college or university are recruited to become certified medical laboratory professionals upon completion of the apprenticeship program. Once a candidate is hired, WDL provides the hands-on experience to attain the skills, which is accompanied by on-site or in-the-classroom curriculum provided by MLS instructors at the Milwaukee Area Technical College and Madison College. The MLS apprenticeship program is a Wisconsin Certified Apprenticeship, meaning that the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development partners with industries, area technical colleges, and private training centers throughout the state to provide individuals a path to a career. Historically, many technical industries in Wisconsin, from cheese processing to building construction, have been the primary sites for apprenticeships. Mike Baron recognized within the apprenticeship model the kind of quality training, instruction, support, and institutional capacity-building that could benefit clinical laboratories greatly. These are the qualities Mike says, that make the MLS apprenticeship program a key strategy in the recruitment and retention of medical laboratory professionals.

“We are at a critical juncture where we cannot ignore the problem of staffing shortages any longer,” said Mike. “We are working together with the State of Wisconsin to close the gap in staffing our laboratories with certified, experienced Medical Laboratory Scientists.”

Mike’s career path was made possible by the CLIA Amendments of 1988, which served as a national response to staffing shortages by allowing clinical laboratories to hire and train qualified individuals to become certified Medical Technologists after a period of supervised on-the-job training. Three decades later, the recruitment and retention of lab staff is, now more than ever, a perineal problem that has been studied, discussed, and written about many times over. Forbes magazine indicated in their April issue this year that clinical laboratories across the United States are 20-25,000 short on staff, approximating “roughly one Medical Laboratory Scientist per 1,000 people.” Other factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of MLS programs and departments across the United States have further exacerbated the recruitment and retention of quality, certified lab staff. Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories’ MLS Apprenticeship program was designed, Mike says, to serve as a critical response in addressing the needs of today’s clinical laboratory, by creating with intention a quality program for more individuals to become certified Clinical Laboratory Scientists through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).

“We had no problem finding people who are straight out of college, motivated, and looking for some type of work in the science industry, and we can sell it easily in terms of giving them a lifelong career,” said Mike Baron.

The program’s two inaugural participants are about 75% of the way through towards completion of the apprenticeship. Since January, they have been working under the supervision of WDL’s Medical Laboratory Scientists conducting on the job training, and gaining the theoretical knowledge needed through classroom instruction provided by local area technical colleges. Once trained and certified, students are not required to continue working for WDL, but are given plenty of incentives for them to stay, Mike adds. WDL employees who may decide, upon completing the MLS apprenticeship program, to move to another clinical laboratory for work is one way that the MLS apprenticeship program can broaden its positive impact throughout the United States in the future.

For qualified candidates interested in joining the MLS apprenticeship program, individuals are encouraged to visit WDL’s career webpage and explore their non-certified technologist positions currently open. Once individuals submit an application for consideration of a non-certified technologist position, if they meet the requirements, the candidate will move through the selections process for an interview with Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories. Apprentices are hired on a rolling basis, as non-certified positions become available. On-the-job training begins once hired, with classroom instruction beginning at the start of the new semester. To learn more about Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories, visit:

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