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Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

  • 1.  Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 08-31-2018 09:53
    Hello Fellow Educators,

    I am interested in knowing if you teach your MLT or MLS students about analytical balances.  Do you teach this content in the MLT/MLS curriculum?  Do students learn this content in a preceding chemistry course?  Is this no longer a topic of great interest to you?  In checking the new ed.6 Clin Lab Certification Examinations BOC Study Guide and the latest ASCLS BOK, except for deletion of maintenance of balances in the BOK, balances, questions about balances are not available. Thanks for your input.

    Regards,
    Mary Lou Turgeon, Ed.D., MLS(ASCP)cm

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    Mary Turgeon
    Consultant/Author
    --
    St Petersburg FL
    (617) 482-2527
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  • 2.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-04-2018 11:11
    I chose not to teach  analytical balances.  There is no instance, unless they go into industrial chemistry that they will use them.

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    Susan Newman
    Instructor
    Coffeyville Community college
    Coffeyville KS
    6202527550
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  • 3.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-05-2018 08:29
    ​We do not teach analytical balances in our MLS program, and they do come to us with prerequisite chemistry courses where they are used.  Also, once out working in the lab in our area, MLA pipettes are typically calibrated using an analytical balance and water, so this is a great skill to have going into the job.

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    Tracy Frankowski
    Program Director, Cooperative Medical Technology Program and Laboratory Safety Officer
    Akron Children's Hospital
    Akron OH
    330-543-8720
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  • 4.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-05-2018 11:59
    We also use the analytical balance in the clinical lab to the assess pipette delivery on an annual basis.  I am not sure there needs to be a session on it in school, and if so, not a very long lecture.  Volumetric equipment must be checked for accuracy and reproducibility before initial use and at predetermined intervals, so I can see the benefit in teaching it.  If you have such a balance in-house, it would be a good wet lab for students to try out their pipetting skills, as random errors and operator misuse are common malfunctions.

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    Jennifer Hayes
    Laboratory Director
    Oregon State Hospital
    Salem OR
    503-507-2614
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  • 5.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-06-2018 02:28
    Analytical balances are absolutely used in a clinical setting, especially in esoteric/special chemistry where calibrators and such are made in-house. Along with many other skills that new students lack fresh out of school, understanding analytical balances is necessary. They are also covered under more than one CAP checklist item.

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    J. Eric Stanford, MHA. MlS(ASCP)cm
    Diagnostic Chemistry Supervisor
    Vanderbilt University Medical Center
    Nashville TN
    615-322-9006
    Eric.Stanford@vumc.org
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  • 6.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-13-2018 00:02
    ​This is how a profession devolves. We are no longer teaching, or at the very least reinforcing, basic laboratory skills.  I can't count the number of times when an individual has demanded fair compensation for their "knowledge" skill set, yet they can't tell me the difference between TD and TC.  They can't apply a correction factor to a column thermometer.  They can't determine the optimal time of centrifugation for a given speed on a centrifuge--and no, 3500 RPM on centrifuge A does not necessarily equal 3500 RPM on centrifuge B.  I haven't used a spectrophotometer in ages, but I still remember the principle behind its use. That principle of colorimetric analysis is the same as what is used in chemistry analyzers, and if you know what, how, and why an analyzer is doing something, you'll be a more effective scientist.  These are basic scientific concepts, or at least they were when I learned this stuff.

    If we, as a profession, do not want for people to think of us a minimally-trained button-pushers, then we need to stop training to that standard.

    That's just my opinion.

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    Lauro E. Guerra, Jr., MT(ASCP)SBB
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  • 7.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-14-2018 06:20
    Hello Lauro,

    I think that the point you make is less about "devolving" than "evolving."
    As the profession moves beyond manual testing and more pressure is put on educators to teach more in the same amount of time, we have to strive for a happy balance of basic skills and an advanced skill-set, including molecular testing.  Many of the basic concepts have been transferred from a manual testing emphasis to an automation principle with an additional emphasis on the clinical aspects of laboratory testing results.  It certainly is a challenge to keep the basic knowledge of fundamental theory and practice, and add the growing body of knowledge.

    As was pointed out earlier, MLT/MLS grads need some basic skills and knowledge for QC purposes. I think that we have to remember that we can lightened up but we can't totally abandon the fundamental MLS knowledge and skills.  When MLS grads pursue graduate science degrees, they need many of the old fashion skills and knowledge for the research needed to achieve those degrees.

    Regards,
    Mary Lou

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    Mary Turgeon
    Consultant/Author
    --
    St Petersburg FL
    (617) 482-2527
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  • 8.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-18-2018 15:14

    Hello Mary Lou,

    I understand the constraints that are placed on educators, i.e. the increase in the body of knowledge vs. time available for instruction/training.  However, I'm sure you are familiar with the phrase "a house is only as strong as its foundation".  The basic skills are the foundation for advanced skills.  You even mentioned it yourself, "When MLS grads pursue graduate science degrees, they need many of the old fashion skills and knowledge for the research needed to achieve those degrees."  If those skills are needed to complete advanced research, I would've thought that they would be pertinent for routine laboratory procedures on which that advanced research would be based on.

    On a different note, with the advent of graduate level CLS degrees, maybe more of the clinical aspects of laboratory results should be taught at that level along with more advanced concepts.  After all, like a former colleague once told me, "I don't need everyone to be trained to be a General!  I need enlisted personnel that can get the job done."

    Again, these are just my opinions.

    Best regards,
    Lauro





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    Lauro E. Guerra, Jr., MT(ASCP)SBB
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  • 9.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-19-2018 07:58
    Hello everyone-

    From 2015 to 2016 I had the pleasure of co-chairing the update to the ASCLS Entry Level Curriculum with Joan Polancic. In the update, educator and industry feedback led us to keep learning objectives on the use of balances. While these learning objectives are minimal they are present.

    I would encourage educators to purchase and use the ELC in curriculum design and development activities (FYI I get nothing from it). You need not purchase the whole set and can decide to just buy a certain categorical area. We have received positive feedback on its content and formatting.

    That in mind, keep in mind the ELC is a guidance but must be customized to your program. We also encourage the use of the Beck and Moon algorithm presented in Clin Lab Sci related to what to teach and base all decisions on what your market requires of new grads.

    One tbing I oppose is teaching something because it is found in esoteric or specialty labs. Our role as programs is produce entry level practitioners with transferable skills. Esoteric or speciality testing skills are rarely entry level and other transferable skills help the graduate adopt the new element quickly as a practitioner. We must also level MLT and MLS curriculum to better prepare each level of practice so they are used appropriately in industry.

    best regards,

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    Kyle Riding, PhD MLS(ASCP)CM
    Assistant Professor
    --
    Orlando FL
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  • 10.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-20-2018 06:18
    Thanks, Kyle.
    This was a great summary on the topic of teaching analytical balance content.  I am also a fan of the ASCLS Entry Level Curriculum.  I used the full sets of both MLT and MLS as valued references.  Good job!  Thanks.
    Mary Lou


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    Mary Turgeon
    Consultant/Author
    --
    St Petersburg FL
    (617) 482-2527
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  • 11.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-19-2018 16:37
    I have only had one position in the clinical laboratory that I had to use an analytical balance and that was years ago. I think there would be little value in teaching its uses at the technician level. However, at the MT level, it certainly doesn't hurt to expose them to basic its uses.  MLT/MT programs are simply the starting point in clinical laboratory education, not an endpoint. A good MLT/MT should be constantly expanding their education while they practice clinical laboratory science.

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    Chad C. McMillan, M.Sc. MT/MDxT(AAB)
    Aureus Medical Group
    Groveland FL
    352 348-3354
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  • 12.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-20-2018 06:17
    ​Analytical balance (or two :-)) is in every basic science research lab and is also used for calibration of micropipettes - this is an exercise that we do with the students to assure their skills in micropipetting before they do their PCR assay. Some of the students come to us with that skill already but, more often, they have had little exposure to micropipetting prior starting the program. To me, the ability to use an analytical balance and centrifuge are entry level skills.

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    Barbara Kraj
    Associate Professor and Program Director
    Old Dominion University
    Norfolk VA
    757-683-6039
    bkraj@odu.edu
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  • 13.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-21-2018 04:58
    I'm surprised that you consider the use of a basic centrifuge and the use of analytical balances to both be entry level skills. While the centrifuge is used by practically everyone in the lab, I have never seen a phlebotomist routinely using analytical balances. It's been years since I've spent time in a research lab, perhaps I need to go back and work in one for a bit.

    I will say, that since I have been working in non-liscensed states, I have seen several examples of clinical laboratory personnel performing tasks that they are not ideally suited for from my perspective.

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    Chad C. McMillan, M.Sc. MT/MDxT(AAB)
    Aureus Medical Group
    Groveland FL
    352 348-3354
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  • 14.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-22-2018 11:04
    ​Chad,
    I assumed we were talking about entry level skills for an MLS, not entry-level skills for PBT. My personal opinion aside, the published MLS Entry Level Curriculum for Clinical Chemistry does include balances under Instrumentation (p.36). While the "analytical balance" is not spelled out specifically, objectives to Identify basic mechanisms and types of balances, to define balancing terminology, as well as to operate balances, calibrate them and perform maintenance (although the skill to develop maintenance procedure for balances has been deleted). Truth be told, the skill to operate the analytical balance should have been first taught in Chemistry I but it is also true that students should not forget that skill while they are in our MLS programs, even if its only application is to be able to check that their micropipettes have been calibrated properly or need service.

    Linda, I'll send you my protocol.

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    Barbara Kraj
    Associate Professor and Program Director
    Old Dominion University
    Norfolk VA
    757-683-6039
    bkraj@odu.edu
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  • 15.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-21-2018 13:23
    Barbara,
    I agree!  In teaching molecular techniques, many of our students do not have an analytical chemistry background in which they have learned the basics of measurement in the ranges required by molecular.  And exposing them to adjustable pipette volumes is important too.

    Last year during the Olympics we really emphasized this as a skill that deserves medals!  If you have teaching exercises in calibration you are willing to share.....I have one from back in the 80s, I'm hoping to update.  Thank you!


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    Linda Ray
    Assistant Professor
    University of North Dakota
    Grand Forks, ND
    (701) 777-3687
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  • 16.  RE: Teaching: Analyitcal Balances

    Posted 09-22-2018 10:35
    Basic micropipettor and analytical balance use for entry-level positions is essential.

    Often, when I am hiring for entry-level positions, most students have used a micropipettor before, however they do not have the right skills to use the micropipettors properly (assessing the proper technique is done via analytical balances).
    Of concern:
    • Plunger speed
    • Pipetting vertically, not at an angle
    • Adjusting the pipettor to the correct volume (how many of you know to adjust above the target delivery volume and dial down to the correct number)?
    • Selecting the correct pipette for the job
    • Aseptic technique

    As part of our laboratory onboarding, we train personnel on basic laboratory techniques (because we no longer assume these skills are taught).
    After a hands-on training on pipettor use, we verify the analyst's skill with each pipettor category (0.5uL, 20uL, 200uL; 1000uL). We have them pipette the same volume multiple times, weighing the result on an analytical balance to establish CV and accuracy. In order to qualify, their CV must be less than 1%.

    We require each analyst to perform this a minimum of once per year; if an analyst is within their first year, they are assessed twice, 6 months apart. Without this training, we have seen PT failures traceable to poor pipettor technique.

    I do not think training MLT students on analytical balances is necessary, since they are unlikely to be conducting training on pipetting technique. For the MLS, a basic review of appropriate use of an analytical balance combined with a practical wet-lab experience on micropipettor use/analytical balance use is an excellent approach to ensure this knowledge is carried forward.

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    Sarah Beatty
    Group Lead - Microbiology
    NSF International
    Ann Arbor, MI
    (734) 272-9651
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