Lab Matters Spring 2020 | Page 30

WORKFORCE Playing the Long Game: Sustainability in the Public Health Laboratory Workforce By Leah D. Gillis, PhD, chair, APHL Workforce Development Committee Maintaining a highly-trained public health laboratory workforce is critical to quality laboratory practice. Drills and tabletop exercises bring awareness and demonstrate how to apply appropriate mitigation measures for natural disasters, acts of chemical, radiological and biological terrorism, emerging infections and other events. But public health laboratory staff must have other professional development resources to perform their complex duties effectively. APHL’s Workforce Development Committee (WDC) undertakes diverse projects to ensure that staff have the resources they need. Some initiatives span years due to their complexity and the involvement of hundreds of volunteers. For example, the development of the public health laboratory competencies and implementation tools, and the establishment of an online DrPH program in clinical and public health laboratory science and practice both were years in the making. Other projects are simpler, with smaller volunteer workgroups spending months to complete the assignment. But regardless of scope or topic, all projects are designed specifically for members to fill identified gaps in training and professional development. In the private sector, major corporations such as Microsoft have invested millions of dollars to move their human resource departments toward a competencybased system, 1 pulling resources from multiple departments within their ranks. In contrast, two WDC projects, the Guidelines for Biosafety Laboratory Competency and Competency Guidelines for Public Health Laboratory Professionals, required the engagement of a wide range of public health subject matter experts to ensure appropriate input and vetting. Actors included APHL programs, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local public health laboratories, federal environmental and agricultural laboratories, clinical laboratories, and academia. Other WDC projects include: • Who Will Run America’s Public Health Labs? • STEM toolkits • A Practical Guide to Board Examination and Laboratory Leadership Resources • Development and implementation of a “bootcamp” for national board certification examinations for laboratory directors • Thomas E. Maxson Education, Training and Workforce Development Award annual nomination and selection process • Public Health 101 Fact Sheet Additional projects developed in collaboration with APHL departments include: • Biannual Workforce Survey in collaboration with Institutional Research • Focus groups engaging early and mid-career public health laboratory scientists to identify strategies to increase job satisfaction and retain valued employees • Retention and recruitment toolkit developed by Emerging Leaders Program Cohort 3. A workgroup has started this item and the goal is to move it forward. Planning for the Future WDC will explore academic partnerships that would align APHL’s competencybased curriculum with appropriate university science programs. Internships, rotations and fellowships could complement academic offerings with real life scenarios and provide professionals to shoulder the performance demands of rapidly evolving public health laboratories. A WDC workgroup will begin by determining how best to share APHL resources and expertise, for example, moving forward biosafety course development. The workgroup also may examine academic clinical laboratory science (CLS) programs using, or with an interest in using, public health laboratories for rotations in microbiology, immunology and serology to meet CLS training requirements . The workgroup will also consider partnering with colleges of public health. For example, the University of South Florida College of Public Health partners with the Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Public Health Laboratories (BPHL) in Miami and Tampa to provide internship opportunities for students. Similarly, the United States Naval Academy has collaborated with the BPHL Miami for the past three years in a highly successful summer internship program. The committee will collaborate with other APHL committees to provide the tools and methods to align committee activities with members’ needs and to continue to strengthen the public health laboratory workforce whose overwhelming dedication has been on display these past few months. n References 1. Campion et al.: Doing Competencies Well: Best Practices in Competency Modeling, Personnel Psychology 2011, 64: 225-262 28 LAB MATTERS Spring 2020 PublicHealthLabs @APHL