Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Role of Education in Heightening Awareness and Broadening the Knowledge Base of Laboratory Professionals

Theresa M. Somrak, Education, American Society for Clinical Pathology, 2100 West Harrison, Chicago, IL, USA

In 2002,the CDC awarded a cooperative agreement to the ASCP for the enhancement of laboratory testing and development of training activities. Education in biological agents was identified as important to enhance laboratory testing and quality, as well as improve overall laboratory personnel preparedness .

o Assess knowledge base of laboratory professionals in select biological and chemical agents;
o Provide education in areas identified as deficient; and
o Reevaluate these laboratory professionals to assess information retention.

Design: ASCP and CDC developed education materials (Laboratory Preparedness for Bioterrorism: from the Phlebotomist to the Pathologist) encompassing information laboratory professionals need to be prepared for bioterrorism events and outbreaks of infectious diseases. Using ASCP education modalities, a pre-test was administered, the educational exercise presented, a post-test administered, and a second post-test administered two months later.

The ASCP/CDC initiative to educate laboratory professionals in bioterrorism preparedness produced 1,872 pre-test participants from every state and every area of the laboratory.
Pre-test: The pre-test results demonstrate laboratory professionals have high baseline knowledge of pathogens that are infectious disease producing or a potential select bioterrorism agent. There was a significant difference between the knowledge of those in public health facilities compared to those in blood centers, forensics laboratories, and physician office labs.
Post-test: The post-test results revealed participants exhibited gains in knowledge after participating in an ASCP educational modality. There was a significant difference in measures between the “pre-test” and “post-test”. Further, the gain is sustained through “post-test two”.

Education plays an important role in heightening awareness and broadening the knowledge base of laboratory professionals. Noteworthy is that laboratory professionals who do not have routine experience with identifying or handling microbial agents retained knowledge of handling these agents. The data suggests the importance of reinforcing education initiatives to maintain the knowledge base of laboratory professionals.

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