College of American Pathologists
Printable Version

  How to create a database form for educational
  slide file sets





November 2007
PAP/NGC Programs Review

Marilee M. Means, PhD, SCT(ASCP)

An ideal teaching file database should be searchable and quick and easy to create and use, and it should be possible to print out forms suited to the commonly used 4 in. x 6 in. vinyl slide holders (Rochester 100 Inc., 40 Jefferson Road, Rochester, NY 14623, SL-3-264 Slide Holder, 585-475-0200).

Such a form can be created using the Microsoft Access (2003, Office Products, Microsoft Corp., One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052-6399) database commonly available on many office computers. Though different editions of Access may vary in their details, with this information it should be possible to create a simple form suitable for general use. These suggestions may also be helpful even if another database program is used. What follows are instructions for creating both the searchable database and the form that can be used as an insert for the vinyl slide holders.

Create database, table, and form

The steps needed to create the database and design the table and form may be summarized as follows:

  • Create the table in Design view and set up the various fields.
  • Enter two or three sets of patient data into the table.
  • Create the form using Form Wizard and Forms Design.
  • Fine-tune the appearance of the form using Page Setup.

The first task is to create the table. Enter the database program and select "New" and "Blank Database." Make a name such as "Teaching File" and click "Create." This will bring up the screen seen in Fig. 1. Click on the "Create table in Design view" selection. Now create the various fields in the screen seen in Fig. 2. The field names and data types will be entered in the top of the screen and the size of each field will be entered under the "Field Properties" section. Specify their sizes and the type of data (text or autonumber) as indicated in Fig. 2. Note that the maximum size for a text data box is 255 spaces.

At our institution, we use the following fields for the database:

Autonumber: This is a way to keep count automatically of the number of cases in the database.

Cyto number: This is the unique accession number for each case.

History: This field contains a brief history of the patient, for example, "62 y.o. female with abdominal mass."

Cyto diagnosis: This field contains the cytologic diagnosis for each case and any additional comments as needed. "Negative. Note the clusters of endocervical cells in honeycomb and picket fence arrangements."

Histo number: This field is used for the unique surgical pathology number of any confirmatory tissue samples.

Histo diagnosis: This field contains the surgical pathology diagnosis for the case.

Comments: This field can be used to give additional information, such as HPV results, flow cytometry results, additional followup history, the results of immunohistochemistry staining, and special morphologic features of note, such as "Note the cracked colloid present in the circle."

Topic: This is the educational topic for each case. It may be a brief summary of the diagnosis—"Endocervical Adenocarcinoma," for example—or a specific feature that is the focus of the case—for example, "Picket Fence Arrangement-Endocervical Cells" in a negative case.

These fields are created by the Design Table feature of the program, and we have found the following field lengths and types work well for our purposes:

Autonumber default autonumber
Cytonumber 50 text
History 50 text
Cyto diagnosis 255 text
Histo number 50 text
Histo diagnosis 255 text
Comments 255 text
Topic 50 text

After creating the table in Design view, go to the table and enter two or three patients. The table view will look something like Fig. 3.

After entering two or three patients, then go to the Forms Design page to create a new form. Click on the Forms icon and select Form Wizard (Fig. 4). The program will ask which fields should be on the form. Under Tables/Queries, select the name of the table (Table 3) from the pull-down menu. From available fields, select all except "autonumber," since that field is not needed on the form (Fig. 5).

On the next screen, the program will ask what layout should be used. Select the "Columnar" layout (Fig. 6). Then select which style to use for the form. We chose "Standard" (Fig. 7). The next screen asks for the name of the form. After naming the form, select "Modify the form's design" and then "Finish" (Fig. 8). The program will then display the form in the Design Form view. The preliminary version of the form will be displayed (Fig. 9).

The "label" for each field is displayed in a small rectangular box to the left of the white field that will contain the contents of each field. Make sure each label does not overlap past the 1-in. mark on the ruler above the form. If it does, adjust it by mousing over the right edge of the label box until a double-sided arrow is seen. Use this to move the edge of the label box to the left. Then align the content boxes (fields) as shown in the example (Fig. 10) so that each field begins at the 1-in. mark. The right-hand edge of each field box should be adjusted so that there is about a 3?8-in. margin for design purposes. The displayed size of each content box can be adjusted as well. Remember that the boxes do not adjust the ultimate size of the field; this can be adjusted (up to a maximum of 255 spaces) only when the fields are created in the Table template. Make sure, however, that the box is big enough to accommodate the entire field, or the contents won't all be displayed on the form. Two hundred fifty-five spaces will make a box that contains about four lines of text on the 4 in. x 53?4 in. form.

The Topic field will need to be moved so that it is in the upper righthand side of the form. This is a useful location so that the cases can be filed or found quickly. Simply click and hold down on the field and move it to the desired location. This field is the only one that does not begin at the 1-in. mark. On our form, it begins at about 21?2 in. Again, make sure that all of the field boxes end about 1?4 in. to 3?8 in. from the righthand edge of the form and are lined up on both sides.

Toggle back to the Forms view, select the form, and check to make sure that the form looks correct with the actual data within it. In this view, select the font and the font size (Fig. 11).

For font style and size, the MS Sans Serif is a readable font that is the default choice, but a size 10 rather than eight-point font is recommended for legibility. Change this in the box above the form.

Switch back to the actual form by clicking on the name given to the form in the Forms menu (Fig. 12). Note that the information entered into the table is now displayed in the form. Also note that the autonumber of each case is displayed at the bottom of the form page. There is a line of text that begins with the word "Record" and then contains a left-facing arrow with a line, a left arrow, a data box with the number of the current record in it, a right-facing arrow, a right arrow with a line, and a right arrow with an asterisk. These correlate with the first record in the table, the previous record, the number of the current record, the next record, the last record in the database, and the final "empty" form into which new data can be entered. The number of the record is important when printing out the forms, so make a note of it when beginning data entry into the forms.

Enter data

Data can be entered for each case either in the table view or in the form view. We most often use the form view for data entry. Remember to make a note of the record number of the first case being entered so that the cases can be printed out easily. Common abbreviations may need to be used to save space on the forms (SCCA for squamous cell carcinoma, for example).

Be sure to develop a convention for entering the data, especially for frequently searched fields such as Cyto Number or Topic, for example. This will make searching easier.

Print the forms Before printing the first time, go to the File menu and select Page Setup. You will need to make several adjustments to the margins and columns tabs in this area (Fig. 13). Under the "Margins" tab, make the top margin 0.25 inches and the left margin 0.25 inches. Then select the "Columns" tab (Fig. 14). On the Columns tab, set the number of columns at one, the row spacing at seven inches (so each form will print on a separate page), the width of the form at 5.45 inches, and the height of the form at 3.7 inches. This should make the form an appropriate size for the vinyl slide holder.

Finally, go to the File menu on the toolbar and select "Print." Enter in the range of records that need to print, for example From: 6 To: 10. Do not simply click on the printer icon or select "ALL" because every record in the database will then print. The print job would then have to be deleted. After several forms have been printed, they can easily be trimmed to size all at once so that they fit into the vinyl slide holders. Only one form per page should print.

Search the database

The table can be searched by any word or phrase. One easy way to find a particular case is to search by accession number. Click on the Table view and then go to the Find menu item under Edit. Enter the case's accession number, select the Table, and select "Any Part of Field" (Fig. 15). This will bring up the selected case number in that field, even if other words were combined with it, such as N07-123 FNA Liver.

Additionally, a Query can be constructed to create a report with many entries, such as all of the cases of adenocarcinoma of the breast, for example. Further information on using Query can be obtained from Microsoft Help. Again, note how important it will be to enter the data in a uniform manner.

Additional considerations

In our hospital, all departmental databases were removed from our computers and not reinstalled until all those with access to the database had undergone training. This training consisted of ways to ensure that Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations relating to such databases could be followed. This ensured also that the database was more secure and available only to those who had undergone training.

Thus, this is a relatively simple use of a database to create teaching file forms and to keep track of the slides used for teaching. It creates a form that can be used in the 4 in. x 6 in. vinyl slide holders and allows searching to find a specific case or set of cases. Obviously, additional adjustments can be made to the form depending on your institution's needs. Some institutions prefer to have the "answer" on the back of the cases rather than on the front. Other databases may also be used to create these forms. These comments may provide useful suggestions for other databases as well.

Dr. Means, a consultant to the CAP Cytopathology Committee, is a clinical associate professor, Cytotechnology Program, School of Allied Health, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan.


Related Links