5 Questions with Ashley Erdman

Sponsored Content - ASK THE EXPERTS: Participating in a Proficiency Program

As food safety testing continues to evolve, it has become ever more important to ensure that your methods and technicians are providing you with reliable results. Participating in a proficiency program is a great way to build confidence in your methods and technicians. Cherney Microbiological Services, Ltd. Proficiency Manager Ashley Erdman explains.

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October 4, 2019

1 Why participate in a proficiency testing (PT) program?

Aside from meeting regulatory compliance, participation in a PT program is a GLP that ensures competency of your staff. PT programs allow comparison not only internally, but also with technicians from other laboratories. Identification of improvements in processes become apparent before they become a problem. These factors will help strengthen relationships with customers by showing commitment to quality and improvement.

2 What is important when selecting a program?

The most important factor when selecting a program is ensuring its fit for your purpose. Choose a program that allows the use of your internal methods and processes as they are, or as close to routine as possible. Other important factors include sample matrix, ease of processing, result presentation, program size, and response of the provider.

3 What should I do with my report?

Always review your report in a timely manner and assess performance. As you obtain reports over time, be sure to track and trend your data. Even when you do have satisfactory results, you may still be able to make improvements within your processes. For example, if you are always higher than the average (assigned value), you may have a bias in your method or process.

4 What should I look at when conducting an unsatisfactory result investigation?

Check to ensure results were reported correctly. If the instructions state not to include units or symbols, including these characters may cause the result to be removed from evaluation. Review the results to ensure no clerical errors occurred while entering data (incorrect values or transposed test results). Review sample storage and handling before and during sample processing to ensure the sample was not compromised or temperature abused. Check to ensure processes were followed correctly and all equipment used was within calibration/specifications. If a root cause cannot be determined, reach out to your provider for assistance.

5 What are the benefits of participating more than once a year?

More data is available for trending each time a facility participates, which provides a more robust trend analysis. To ensure competence, everyone performing testing in the facility should participate in PT. When efficiency is a concern, one option is to rotate technicians through rounds so all participate, but not at one time. If your provider rotates matrixes, participating more will ensure you receive all matrix types rather than just one, increasing confidence in your results and processes.