College of American Pathologists
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  Glucose to Gram stain—new competency tests for 2012


CAP Today




January 2012
Feature Story

Anne Ford

When CAP senior product manager Corrine Cagney, MT (HEW), was helping develop new point-of-care/waived competency programs for hCG, glucose, urine dipstick, and strep screen, she made sure to keep one fact in mind: “It’s really hard to ensure the quality and competency of staff performing laboratory tests when you have as many as 100 people to assess in 24 hours.”

That’s why the materials for those programs have a shelf life of two to four weeks after being opened. “We don’t want to give them something and it’s only good for three days once you open it,” she says.

Extended shelf-stability is just one feature of the new POC/waived products, which, along with basic and advanced competency products for virtual Gram stains, add up to six competency-assessment products the CAP is rolling out for 2012.

Designed for use in hospitals as well as small clinics and physician offices, each new POC/waived product contains enough specimens to test at least 10 people. “Let’s say, for example, I get a new employee,” Cagney says. “I can pull one of these out of our bundle and test them. Or let’s say I’m in a physician office, and I have to make sure annually that all my nurses are doing pregnancy tests correctly. Well, this is a great way for me to test all those nurses at one time.”

In addition, says CAP technical analyst Sharon Burr, the CAP will provide the results for two of these products via its Web site, so that laboratorians don’t have to wait to get results; they can go online with the link provided in the kit instructions. “In other words,” she says, “the results we will be sharing with them will be from the regular Surveys program. It’s really important when we look at something like waived glucose because there are so many different instruments. This way, they can find what they are using in their institution and compare it directly with the specific method they’re using. So there’s going to be power behind the statistics provided.”

Bobbi Pritt, MD, director of clinical parasitology and virology in the Division of Clinical Microbiology at the Mayo Clinic and a member of the CAP Microbiology Resource Committee, helped develop the new virtual Gram stain basic and advanced competency products. Why the two different levels of difficulty?

“Often in the evening or off-hour shift, you’re down to bare-bones staff,” she explains. “You might have people cross-covering many areas of the lab, and they may not be microbiologists—but they may be called upon to read a Gram stain, just to recognize if there’s an organism present or if it’s negative. It’s critical because Gram stain is one of the more difficult stains to interpret.” The specialist version is for microbiologists. “Participants can choose one or both, depending on which of their staff they’re trying to assess competency in,” she says.

Look for an expanded menu of POC/waived competency challenges in 2013, Cagney says, with PT/INR, HemoCue glucose, hemoglobin, and fecal occult blood up next.

Anne Ford is a writer in Evanston, Ill. For more information about or to enroll in the competency programs, call the CAP at 800-323-4040 or 847-832-7000 option 1.