Lab Matters Summer 2017 - Page 33

industry matters Training Laboratories: The Unsung Heroes of PHLs by Warren Hendrickson, public health director, HDR Inc. The important role that training laboratories play in modern-day public health laboratories (PHLs) is not always fully appreciated or understood. This is not for a lack of understanding about the importance of training itself. Indeed, when HDR engages PHLs to program new space, many of the public health professionals we work with emphasize the need for training spaces. Most of them understand the unequivocal role that training plays in advancing public health best practices and improving technical and scientific skills within the system. Still, when PHLs need to accommodate an increased volume in testing but struggle with reduced funding, the training laboratory is often one of the first spaces targeted for removal or repurposing. Underestimating the value of training laboratories can lead to missed opportunities for: • Training First Responders Training laboratories enable very specific hands-on laboratory training for first responders. It is highly preferable to conduct outbreak response and emerging infectious disease trainings in laboratories that are equipped with the proper equipment to train on techniques, but that limit trainee exposure to the biohazards of a typical laboratory. The training laboratory is the perfect space to do so, as it provides a fully functional BSL-2 laboratory, but does not routinely handle viable samples during training. Additionally, including BSL-3 support spaces allows for biosafety and biosecurity training with even higher hazard protocols. Ideally, this would include an adjacent anteroom to train on personal protective equipment (PPE) donning and doffing protocols and procedures and appropriate equipment for decontamination and sterilization. PublicHealthLabs @APHL • Community Outreach Training laboratories put public health “on display” by providing a front door for PHLs, welcoming the community and giving them proof that important work happens in the laboratory. PHLs often use training laboratories as a home base for tours, trainings and meetings for a variety of community groups including K-12 students, community colleges, politicians, laboratory professionals and many others. Flexible classroom and conferencing space can be used to accommodate different size groups and provide a place to present an overview of the laboratory, teach classes or host discussions. Since training laboratories are fully functional, these groups can experience actual laboratory environments and techniques firsthand without risk of exposure. The key to all of this is functionality and flexibility. Training laboratories that are fully functional and flexible enough to quickly adapt and accommodate a new use or purpose provide great value and are a critical piece of the program in every public health laboratory. n HDR Inc. is a Diamond Level Sustaining Member of APHL. Training laboratories put public health “on display” by providing a front door for PHLs, welcoming the community and giving them proof that important work happens in the laboratory. • Equipment and Standards Training Setting up and testing equipment before bringing it into the laboratory for its final setup is yet another essential use for training laboratories. They can also serve as a critical teaching tool for various laboratory equipment such as fume hoods in chemical laboratories, biological safety cabinets in biology laboratories and autoclaves for sterilization techniques. • Surge Capacity and Swing Space If a training laboratory is located in the right place—with access to both the public and to the “back of house” (e.g., central accessioning, loading docks, currier drop-off, etc.)—it can be an ideal space for added surge capacity in case of an emergency event. A fully functional training laboratory can also provide “swing space” that can be utilized for routine testing and analysis when necessary due to renovation or maintenance in other areas of the facility. Laboratorians participate in a training session at North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health. Courtesy of NC State Laboratory of Public Health Summer 2017 LAB MATTERS 31