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WSLH Proficiency Testing

Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene

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:

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