In this month’s two-part “Hot Topic” series, Joaquin Garcia, M.D., and Tiffany Mainella, HTL(ASCP), review the main components of training clinical laboratory staff and discuss how to ensure your trainers are capable of instructing them.

Foundations of Clinical Laboratory Excellence


Expires: June 2024





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Transcript and References


Hi, I’m Bobbi Pritt, Director of the Clinical Parasitology Lab and Vice Chair of Education in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Mayo Clinic. Training new allied health staff is a common occurrence among each institution, but how can each organization guarantee their trainers are capable of training when they don’t have a background in education or teaching? In this month’s Hot Topic, Education Specialist, Tiffany Mainella, will discuss what needs to be addressed to safeguard your training and quality products so the needs of the patient are met.  I hope you enjoy this month’s Hot Topic, and I want to personally thank you for allowing Mayo Clinic the opportunity to be a partner in your patients’ healthcare.

Thank you for the kind introduction, Dr. Pritt.

As Dr. Pritt mentioned, this talk focuses on training clinical laboratory staff. In part one of the Hot Topic series, I will be discussing the components of training.


I have no disclosures.

Utilization Message

As you view the presentation, consider the following questions regarding training. First, how is training executed in your practice? And second, how will the results impact patient management?

Key Questions

There are two key questions that will be covered throughout the training series.

Part one of the Hot Topic series will focus on the main components of training.

Main Components of Training

This is an overview of the main categories of training. Training is much more than information transfer between trainer and trainee. It involves reliability within that transfer, as well as documentation, quality maintenance, and keeping the trainer engaged throughout the entire process.

Main Components of Training: Learning

The first area of focus is learning. It is important that trainers subscribe to the information that is given to each trainee. This is to make certain that each learner is receiving a standardized set of information. This standardized approach leads into the necessity of having learning plans. This could be something as simple as having an informal goal chart or weekly table to support progress and evolvement within the training period. It is also important that a level of respect and understanding are established between the trainer and trainee, in order to provide growth and independence during training.

This is an example of a learning plan. Two basic tasks have been introduced by the trainer. The initial training indicates that the trainee has been exposed to the task previously, while the verified training signifies that the trainee is able to successfully perform the task independently. The duration will vary based upon the skill and confidence that both individuals have with regard to the task being executed.

Main Components of Training: Documentation

The second area of focus is documentation. It is critical to have formal documentation for training that occurs throughout the work unit to prove that an employee has been properly trained. Standardizations are utilized to ensure that every task being trained has been reviewed and completed. Competencies are required to confirm that the employee is able to perform tasks accurately. Trainees should receive an initial competency after training to a particular area is complete and again six months later. After the first year of training to that area, competencies are to be completed annually.

This is an example of how documentation can reveal trends within training. This chart shows how long it took for three different employees to complete three main elements within the histology laboratory. By reviewing these trends annually, or more frequently if significant training has occurred, it allows leadership to analyze and determine training time, trainer disbursement, and any adjustments that may need to be made to the training program.

Main Components of Training: Quality

The third area of focus is quality. High quality and productivity are crucial when training to a new area, as it sets the tone of what to expect when the trainee becomes independent. Metrics are a way to objectively determine if productivity is being met. It is important to note, however, that productivity should not impede quality. Interventions may be conducted if trainees are not meeting expectations given. Interventions can be accomplished through formal or informal remediation, depending upon the situation. Comparisons of trainees can also be analyzed by leadership as a way of defining quality and productivity thresholds.

The following chart shows the quality assessments that were performed for six months after the initial competency for the given area was completed. Retrospective reviews were done by designated personnel, and all three employees maintain high quality metrics after becoming independent in their skill sets. If it is found that quality has fallen below expectations, interventions can be made to improve the skill set.

Main Components of Training: Trainer Involvement

The last area of focus for this presentation is trainer involvement. It is important that trainers stay engaged throughout the decision-making process of a training program. They represent the individuals who will know the trainees best when determining the next course of action for each learner, as well as techniques that can be used for future trainees. The trainers should also be able to provide feedback to both trainees and leadership throughout the process to ensure that high standards and realistic training plans are created.

In order to grow professionally, trainers may need guidance and coaching. Below is a table of various topics that leadership, or a designated member of the education team, can review with trainers. Topics include various styles of training, as well learning more about what motivates trainees, and mechanisms to learn about positive and negative reinforcements. This section will be covered more in part two of the training series.


In summary, there are several key components within a training program. This was the first part of the Hot Topic series and included learning, documentation, quality, and trainer involvement. Training programs are built from these foundational subsets, but continuous efforts to ensure success and best practices should be executed for clinical laboratory excellence.

I would like to thank you for joining me for part one of this Hot Topic series: Training Clinical Laboratory Staff to Work at the Highest Level. Please let us know if you have any questions related to the topic.