Assessment of technical competence of candidates within a clinical pathology discipline
Background Medical laboratories play a crucial role in patient care and require a competent skilled workforce to deliver this essential service. The current process of Medical Technologist training is a summative assessment consisting of two written 3 hour papers that correlates theoretical knowledge acquired at a tertiary level with the practical internship. Currently there is no assessment of technical competence of Intern Medical Technologists (candidates) by the HPCSA. Aim: This study aims to determine how technical competence was assessed for Intern Medical Technologists who are eligible to write the National Board Examination in the Clinical Pathology discipline. Methods: A quantitative design was used for assessing the technical competence of the candidates that were eligible to write the National Board Examination by using an adapted SANAS witnessing tool across ten Clinical Pathology test procedures by direct observation as well as to determine how technical competence is assessed in HPCSA registered training laboratories using a survey administered to Laboratory managers and trainers. The data was collected and analysed using the statistical software SPSS version 24.0. Results Some candidates that were directly observed in each of the Clinical Pathology test procedures were deemed not yet competent in compliance and adherence to SOP’s, acceptability of results, internal quality control procedures and the acceptability of the outcome and availability of signed training and competency records on the direct observation checklist. These results of the assessment of technical competence were compared to the results of the National Board examination that candidates wrote and there was no correlation between the two except for the Microbiology sub-discipline and the general section. Results of operations of competency assessment in 9 HPCSA registered Training Laboratories revealed that 100% of respondents have a technical competence laboratory policy, 90% identified the Laboratory Manager as having responsibility for ensuring assessment of staff competency, 100% stated that frequency of competency testing was upon initial employment and once in two years thereafter, 90% had clear criteria to define competency assessment and 100% indicated that the remedial process used in their laboratories was documented corrective action which included re-training and re-assessment. Conclusion: From this study it can be concluded that assessment of technical competency for Intern Medical Technologists in the Clinical Pathology could augment current assessment systems of Intern Medical Technologists for conferment of professional designation and a policy review is recommended.