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Special Initiatives

CSMLS has embarked on a long-term initiative to support academic programs, health care organizations and the future medical laboratory workforce in understanding current system gaps. Together, we want to increase the number of MLT students and expedite entry to practice as well as collaborate to create evidence-based results.

In a three-tiered project, information has been sought through formal surveys, an environmental scan, national forum discussions, targeted information gathering sessions and the Simulation Research Network. In addition, CSMLS has released special initiative grants for CSMLS simulation and clinical placement projects.

See the Simulation and Clinical Placement Initiative webpage for more details, reports and the Call to Action.

Contact: lauraz@csmls.org

CSMLS has received funding from the Ontario Bridge Training Program to develop 2-3 diversity products aimed at meeting the specific needs of MLT workplaces in Ontario. Diversity products in this context, may take a variety of forms and include: instructional videos, certifications courses, workshop curriculum, tip sheets and human resources checklists.

Instead of developing these products from scratch, research conducted at the outset of the project will catalogue a number of resources currently in operation across Canada that could be adapted for use to serve the MLT community. These resources will vetted via focus groups with three different sets of users: i) internationally educated workers; ii) front-line workers and iii) supervisory staff. Based on the findings of these groups (and a baseline survey conducted with all 14,000 CSMLS members related to this issue), 2-3 existing tools will be selected for customization. These products will be developed by an experienced Diversity Consultant.

Title Description Publication Year
Leveraging Cultural Diversity Products for Medical Laboratory Science Employers Diversity products and final report Contact: miriamg@csmls.org Project is underway; Completion date TBD

CSMLS received funding to create an online version of the General Medical Laboratory Technologist (MLT) certifying exam by developing three sets of practice exams, creating a total of 600 test questions. The practice exams will help internationally educated medical laboratory technologists (IEMLTs) to practice the certifying exams prior to actually taking the exam. In addition, IEMLTs would be provided with an additional set of resources that will expand their understanding of the test questions.

The practice exams will be based on Competency Profiles of the profession, which mimic workplace tasks (and corresponding levels of proficiency) expected for entry-to-practice. Questions banks will be created using item banking software and will be hosted on an IT platform (linked to the CSMLS website) for easy access to all IEMLTs. Users will be automatically provided with their practice score once it is completed, together with detailed information on specific subject/competency areas where the individual was successful and/or may need to focus their study before attempting the actual certifying exam. The project goal is to increase familiarity with the content, ease exam anxiety and ultimately increase the performance rate of the IEMLTs on the national certification exam, facilitating quicker entry to the regulatory body (licensure) and the workplace.

Title Description Publication Year
Development of Online Practice Exams for General MLT Practice exam and final report Contact: miriamg@csmls.org Project is underway; Completion date TBD

With the rapid pace of change occurring within the medical laboratory profession, the impact can negatively affect the mental health of workers. The CSMLS Mental Health Initiative set out to:

  • Evaluate the current state of mental health issues in the medical laboratory profession.
  • Create the process and associated tools to identify, monitor and support national mental health change in the workforce.
  • Understand the mental health experience of MLPs.

This was achieved through the use of quantitative and qualitative research, rigorous processes to create evidence-based policy and a person-centred philosophy to guide the work, resulting in impactful products for members. Deliverables from the initiative include the Mental Health Toolkit, qualitative data on mental health, implementation of CSMLS Mental Health Awareness and Promotion Grants for members, national data on mental health in our profession and other mental health awareness campaign (e.g., Faces of Mental Health and Mental Health Selfies).

Contact: lauraz@csmls.org

Title Description Publication Year
Mental Health in Our Profession – Defined CJMLS article demonstrating some of the results of a 2016 National Mental Health Survey conducted with CSMLS members. 2017
Mental Health Presentation Slide Deck The Mental Health Initiative slide deck as presented to the Conference Board of Canada’s Wellness in the Workplace Conference. *Additional conferences presentations have been conducted. 2017
Describing Mental Health Issues for Medical Laboratory Professionals in the Workplace The study examined the personal accounts of medical laboratory professionals and the mental health issues experienced due to workplace stress. The study utilized an asynchronous online forum discussion board. The qualitative results confirmed major stressors at the personal, organization and professional levels. 2016
Mental Health Toolkit The Mental Health Toolkit is an interactive website of resources, information and surveys to learn about and support your mental health needs in the workplace. Winner of the CSAE Award of Distinction 2017.

In 2019, the Toolkit is expanding in honour of World Mental Health Day. We are adding to the student and educator page, creating an Indigenous mental health page and providing more interdisciplinary tools for health professionals. 
Website
National Mental Health Webinar In collaboration with CAMRT and Sonography Canada, CSMLS conducted a national mental health survey in 2018. The results of this interdisciplinary study are presented, showcasing the benchmarking data that can be used to monitor the mental health of our professional groups. The presentation is free and can be viewed on demand. Presentation
National Indicators: Mental Health Status of
Medical Laboratory Professionals in Canada
A national review of the mental health status of medical laboratory professionals who are members of the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS). These medical laboratory professionals (MLPs) include medical laboratory assistants/technicians (MLAs) and medical laboratory technologists (MLTs). 2018
National Indicators: The Quality of Worklife of Medical Laboratory Professionals in Canada A national review of the quality of worklife of employed medical laboratory professionals who are members of the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS). These medical laboratory professionals (MLPs) include medical laboratory assistants/technicians (MLAs) and medical laboratory technologists (MLTs). 2018

Medical laboratory professionals should be acutely aware that their laboratories and clinical environments represent high-risk hazardous settings, both in preanalytical and analytical phases. Workers are exposed to numerous potential hazards including chemical, biological and even radioactive threats, in addition to other physical and psychological impactors such as musculoskeletal and mental stressors. For example, prolonged standing, neck bending, stress associated dealing with ill patients, exposure to sharp instruments and exposure to infectious material(s) are common. The work of medical laboratory professionals allows for limited control over their environment, coworkers and patients, resulting in a workplace that can never be considered 100% safe.

CSMLS undertook a longitudinal review of the occupational injury and disease data produced by the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) as well as conducted a national survey with CSMLS members regarding occupational health and safety practices.

Contact: lauraz@csmls.org

Title Description Publication Year
A Decade in Review - Accepted Lost Time Claims and Fatalities in the Medical Laboratory Profession This report provides a historical look and analysis of the national injury and disease data produced by the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC). Data from 2006-2015 associated with lost time claims and fatalities, as reported to the Canadian Workers’ Compensation Boards/Commissions (WCBs), has been analysed and presented. 2018
National Occupational Health and Safety Survey

The purpose of this study is to better understand health and safety practices as well occupational disease and injuries experienced by medical laboratory professionals working in laboratories across Canada.

A survey examining the occupational health and safety practice of CSMLS members was conducted approximately ten years ago. Since this time, there has been an increase in safety awareness and improved health protocols and technology. This study will:

  • Examine how the health and safety practice of CSMLS members has changed since the original survey,
  • Help to understand reporting of occupational disease and injuries by members to their workplace, and
  • identify opportunities to improve safety culture.
In progress – final release TBD
CSMLS Safety Central Webpage For more safety information and resources: https://www.csmls.org/Safety-Central.aspx Launched 2018

A recent shift has occurred to place more effort into the study of ‘laboratory utilization’, which focuses on whether test orders are appropriate or inappropriate, and the resultant impact. An estimated 20-50% of all testing is inappropriately ordered, meaning that it is either an incorrect test, a redundant test or a correct test ordered at the wrong time. This results in large amounts of wasted public money, misdirected clinical effort and the potential for patient harm. The reasons for inappropriate testing are numerous, spanning physician, patient, social and system factors. We have reached a point in the field where it is no longer a question of whether inappropriate testing is occurring, but rather there is a need to understand the extent it is occurring, why it persists and what can be done.

There have been many initiatives to improve the utilization of healthcare resources in general, but none have gained the momentum of Choosing Wisely (CW), which began in the United States in 2012. In Canada, there are approximately 50 professional societies and 327 recommendations. In 2018, the CSMLS agreed to become a campaign partner with CW Canada.

The CSMLS and University of Alberta (UofA) are partnering on a project to facilitate medical laboratory professional’s participation in reducing unnecessary testing in the healthcare system. This collaboration will involve the creation of a website that is focused on two primary items. First, a compilation of current CW Canada recommendations related to the laboratory along with an educational tool to help practitioners understand how they can influence the use of the recommendations. Second, a profession-specific list of recommendations generated through a multi-pronged engagement process. To help maximize the impact of these items, a broader understanding of current MLP attitudes, awareness and engagement related to CW is needed. Research is required to fill this gap in knowledge.

Title Description Publication Year
Choosing Wisely for Medical Laboratory Professionals in Canada Contact: lauraz@csmls.org Project is underway; Completion date 2019-20

Little information is available about the employment conditions for Medical Laboratory Assistants (MLAs) in Canada, especially in regards to the modern era of increasingly precarious jobs. In this respect, precarious jobs can be defined as casual, temporary, unstable or insecure jobs that are used to fill long-term employment needs, with expectations of worker flexibility that can greatly affect the health and well-being of the worker and their family.

As the Canadian healthcare system undergoes major transformation across the nation, the effect of the diverse changes on the career of an MLA is largely unknown. In addition, with more information becoming available about the social determinants of health, there is an important connection between precarious working conditions and negative health implications. For example, emotional and mental stress due to job insecurity, task-shifting, and the constant underlying uncertainty due to the current environment of government cuts to healthcare budgets, and subsequently staffing.

Therefore, there is a need to gather more information about precarious jobs for MLAs in Canada and the perceived effects on their health and well-being. The purpose of the MLA Precarious Employment study is to better this through data collected in focus groups and by a national survey.

The study was conducted as part of the student research practicum for Noelle Cater through the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Laura Zychla was acting as her Researcher Supervisor for this project.

Title Description Resource
MLA Precarious Employment Report Results of the focus groups and survey for the REB approved study. Project is underway;
Completion date TBD
Newly Certified Graduate Employment Survey This survey examines the employment rate of medical laboratory professionals who were successful in passing the CSMLS certification exam within a specified year. It provides an indication of labour market needs for professionals and employers as well as vital information for academic programs and students evaluating entrance into the profession. See Annual Reports

On October 17, 2018, Canada became the second nation in the world to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. Reports state that after alcohol, cannabis is the most commonly used psychoactive substance among Canadians. Medicinal use of cannabis has also increased dramatically, as the number of registered medicinal cannabis users increased from 23,930 in 2015, to 330,758 in 2018.

Canada is only the second nation in the world to legalize cannabis across its land. As such, there is almost no literature describing the medical laboratory experience during such a landmark change. However, legalization of cannabis in Canada has the potential to impact the work conducted by medical laboratory professionals (MLPs). Overall, the health system prepared for legalization through information dissemination, and policies and procedure reviews as encouraged by the government.

The purpose of the CSMLS study was to better understand any clinical laboratory workplace changes and expected future change as experienced by MLPs due to the legalization of cannabis in Canada. The study conducted semi-structured interviews with MLPs to understand the situation.

The study was conducted as part of the student research practicum for Julia Acker through the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Laura Zychla was acting as her Researcher Supervisor for this project.

Title Description Resource
Cannabis Legalization Study Report Results from the semi-structured interviews for the REB approved study. Project is underway;
Completion date TBD
Hot Spot Review – What is the Cannabis Conversation About? Discussion on the legalization of cannabis in Canada and the impact that it may have on laboratories. Legalization impact is viewed from the perspectives of the individual and the employer while considering the limitations of cannabis laboratory tests. 2018
Cannabis in Canada: Get the Facts Government of Canada information for citizens on the legalization of Cannabis Website
Cannabis Legalization and Regulation The Cannabis Act creates a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across Canada. Website
Cannabis Stats Hub Statistics Canada information for cannabis health, justice, economy and price data. Website
Workplace Strategies: Risk of Impairment from Cannabis This White Paper discusses the implications associated with the use of cannabis for both therapeutic and recreational purposes. The key steps to reducing the impact of impairment on the workplace are to have appropriate policy and response mechanisms in place, to provide clear guidance to all workplace parties, and to apply workplace policies and programs using a fair and consistent approach. Report

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