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Residents Share What It’s Really Like to Participate in a Laboratory Inspection

The CAP offers an educational, peer-based approach to laboratory inspections. Our volunteer inspectors share their expertise to reduce risk and improve patient care. Their hard work, knowledge, and steadfast commitment to quality are invaluable assets to our accreditation programs. Laboratory inspections may not be top of mind for pathology residents, but they can be a valuable experience alongside your training to see how a laboratory operates.

The CAP's inspection program is a unique opportunity for pathology residents to enhance their pathology skills, learn about lab accreditation requirements, and connect with pathologists.

Lab inspections may seem intimidating, but past participants have shared that they came away grateful and excited to be a part of an inspection team. Two such residents, Ashley Hein, MD, and Alaaeddin Alrohaibani, MD, recently participated in a lab inspection team and were delighted to share their experiences and advice.

What can a resident expect from the inspection?

Dr. Ashley Hein: You can expect to be busy during the inspection itself, to meet interesting experts in various fields on your inspection team, and to have a lot of fun! 

After I signed up to be part of an inspection through the CAP’s website, the CAP contacted me within a month asking if I could participate in an upcoming inspection. Once I agreed, they sent me all the information I needed, including the online inspector training program, a reimbursement form for travel expenses, how to contact the travel desk to make travel arrangements and the contact information of my team leader. My team leader assigned me a couple of different labs to inspect and provided me with the checklists for those areas before the inspection. I met my team for dinner the night before the inspection, and they were very excited to involve a trainee in this process.

On inspection day, I was pretty busy but was essentially going down checklists and verifying that everything was in order. I verified that written policies were in place for various subjects and then toured the labs, ensuring that things like fridge temperatures and eyewash stations were frequently checked. Everyone was very respectful and collaborative throughout the entire process.

What is the training like?

Dr. Alaaeddin Alrohaibani: There are modules to take on the CAP’s website, which introduce you to the terminology and the different aspects of a laboratory inspection. While much of the training feels unrelatable at first, it will make sense once you are on site.

Dr. Hein: The training includes a brief overview of the process, how to interpret common checklist items, and how to report a deficiency. The expected completion time was 4.5 hours, but I found it can be completed in less time. Afterward, you will receive a certificate stating you have completed training, which you can save and provide to your residency program. Some [inspection training sessions] are eligible for CME credit.

What would you say to those who are hesitant to sign up to participate or worry they aren't qualified to participate?

Dr. Alrohaibani: There is no need to hesitate. This experience will help you feel more comfortable and confident before you will be responsible for conducting an inspection.

Dr. Hein: I would say that participating in this process has given me a greater understanding of why we run our labs the way we do. The CAP inspector training gives a great baseline understanding of the process. And your team leader will make sure you are prepared for inspection day. You will not be alone in this process. Further, participating in a laboratory inspection is an ACGME milestone expected to be completed during pathology residency training, so you might as well get involved now. It does not hurt that you get to travel somewhere new for the inspection. I went to California in winter, and it was great to see sunshine and palm trees!

What was something you learned that surprised you?

Dr. Alrohaibani: How intricate the lab work is in order to deliver precise and accurate testing and results to our patients. At the same time, I did not feel intimidated to be part of an inspection.

Dr. Hein: It should not have surprised me, but I was nevertheless surprised when I discovered that all the people overseeing the labs that I was inspecting were experienced CAP inspectors themselves! As a result, they were completely prepared for our questions.

What else would you like residents to know?

Dr. Alrohaibani: It’s a unique experience that I wish I had taken part in earlier in my training. I learned about so many laboratory operations that I would have never been exposed to otherwise.

Dr. Hein: Do not be intimidated by the process. It’s a great way to gain experience with inspections, to meet new people, and to travel!

With specific checklists and procedures to follow, a laboratory inspection may seem overwhelming at first. The CAP’s Resident Inspection Training Program is a unique opportunity to observe and participate in a lab inspection with close supervision and guidance. As Dr. Alrohaibani and Dr. Hein shared, you will be fully prepared by the time you step into the laboratory for an inspection.

All trainees PGY2+ are eligible to participate. Learn more about how to get started.

Ashley Hein, MD, is in her third year of a combined AP/CP pathology & microbiology residency at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha NE. She will be pursuing a gastrointestinal and liver pathology fellowship at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York NY starting in 2024. Her interests include gastrointestinal pathology, informatics, and education.

Alaaeddin Alrohaibani, MD, is a PGY-4 anatomical and clinical pathology resident at Oregon Health and Science University and soon to be a surgical pathology fellow at Emory University. His goal is to become a surgical pathologist with a genitourinary subspecialty. His dedication to research and informatics is his motivation to advance the pathology field for the profession, but for patients, first and foremost.

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