College of American Pathologists
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cap today

August 2002
Feature Story

How to become a cytopathology inspector

Mary Groff

If you have never been on an inspection team but would like to be, inform the director of your CAP-accredited laboratory. He or she is responsible for assembling the team when it's time to fulfill the laboratory's inspection obligation every two years. The College offers three training options for those who want to become CAP cytopathology inspectors. All training is free for those participating in the Laboratory Accreditation Program.

Live seminars. These one-day live inspector training seminars prepare inspection team leaders and team members to inspect. They are held in major U.S. cities about 25 times each year. LAP commissioners, staff, and experienced laboratorian-inspectors serve as faculty. The format has been traditional lecture style, with time for audience questions and answers. Covered in the morning is the inspection process, inspection checklist items common to all sections, and inspecting for laboratory general. Afternoon breakout sessions focus on discipline-specific inspection information, frequently asked questions, and common deficiencies. A one-hour breakout on the cytopathology lab is offered at every live seminar. Six hours of CME/ CMLE credit is offered.

We have begun this year to change the format to one that is more interactive, with minimal use of the lecture method. The majority of participants are experienced, practicing laboratory professionals familiar with the CAP Laboratory Accreditation Program checklists, at least from the inspectee's perspective. They have the clinical expertise necessary to evaluate how peer laboratories are performing. What these potential inspectors want to understand are the nuances of inspecting, what the intent is of a checklist item, what indicates noncompliance, and when a deficiency should be cited. To meet these needs, we've designed what-if scenarios (what if you are inspecting and the laboratory's quality control records . . .), interactive activities, and role-playing exercises using commonly encountered examples of inspection documentation to challenge the inspector trainee. Discussion will be a key part of these exercises, and participants will come away with insight into the variety of ways requirements can be met and a clearer understanding of what constitutes compliance.

Visit our Web site at for a list of LAP inspector training seminars.

On request and when possible, half-day cytopathology-only inspector training events are presented to regional cyto-pathology groups. (The format of the cytopathology-only session will become more interactive next year.) If such an event is held in your area, an invitation will be sent to your laboratory director, who will notify others in the lab. If you have programming responsibility for a regional cytopathology group and are interested in hosting a CAP inspector training program, contact Marilyn Speed at 800-323-4040 ext. 7841 or

Online audioconference. If you don't have the time or travel funds to attend a live seminar, you can go online and listen to a 45-minute audioconference and 15-minute question-and-answer session given by Robert R. Rickert, MD. Dr. Rickert is vice chair of the Commission on Laboratory Accreditation, former member of the Cytopathology Committee, and a cytopathology advocate. He succinctly presents the fine points of inspecting the cytopathology lab. A downloadable handout accompanies the audio file. This eliminates the need for audiotapes, which are not available.

Access the audioconference via the Internet at work or from your home at One hour of CME/CMLE credit is offered.

Inspector basic self-study. If you have never inspected a cytopathology laboratory, get a head start by using the basic self-study to prepare yourself. This self-paced study uses the Laboratory Accreditation Manual as a source document. You can complete this course online or download and print it for future study. If you complete a self-assessment examination, you will receive six hours of CME/CMLE credit. A paper version is available for those who do not have Internet access. Frequent revision of the Laboratory Accreditation Manual guarantees you will receive up-to-date inspection and Laboratory Accreditation Program information.

Mary Groff is a Laboratory Accreditation Program education specialist at the College of American Pathologists.