Expert's Opinion

Certification Helps Biocompatibility Labs Provide Service, Value and Productivity

By Jeffery R. Nelson, CEO, Nelson Laboratories | July 13, 2012

NRCM can increase knowledge and confidence and become part of the culture

(Expert Opinion posts reflect the views of their authors, and not the views of Contract Pharma. If you'd like to comment on Mr. Nelson's piece, log in and start a discussion in our Comments section below!)

The mission of the National Registry of Certified Microbiologists (NRCM) is to certify professional laboratory microbiologists in order to increase quality and excellence for the health improvement of patients worldwide. Our microbiology-testing laboratory believes in the goals of the NRCM and in the notion that certification makes a big difference in the ability to provide exceptional quality testing — testing that is valuable and productive.

The three main goals of the NRCM include minimizing risk to the public by identifying qualified microbiologists, encouraging mastery of microbiological knowledge and skills that contribute to improving the human condition, and fostering professional pride and a sense of accomplishment in qualified microbiologists.

Labs can develop a systematic and organized approach to providing certification for employees starting with a strong relationship with the NRCM, and by having a staff member responsible for providing a yearlong certification course overseen by an onsite NRCM proctor.

According to the NRCM, crafting a successful certification preparation program helps professionals recognize the goals, purpose and benefits behind microbiology certification. NRCM Exam committees can develop and evolve exam content to reflect current microbiology practices, but since the material covered in the exams reflects a broad spectrum of microbiology practices, fulfillment of education requirements and work experience required of prospective examinees does not guarantee passing an exam.

One such program began when a few people who wanted to become certified started study groups at our facility. Those study groups evolved into a formal on-site class open for any qualified microbiologist to attend. The class utilizes flash cards and other materials the company developed.

The program has since grown into a full-fledged, company-sponsored program to encourage and support certification — even to the point where it has almost become an expectation within the culture for microbiologists to become certified. It’s not required for people to become certified, but it is encouraged. Over time it has become a badge of honor as staff members invest in themselves and in the company. Mostly though, certification continually ensures the lab reaches its goals to provide valuable service to its clients.

When a new certification class is ready to begin, an announcement goes out letting people know to signup and register for the class. Each member of the new class completes an application to ensure they are qualified to take the class. Those accepted become part of a 15- to 20-member class.

The class teaches and helps each participant prepare for the test. Students receive a book of possible topics in a three-inch binder that they learn from and use in their studies and preparations.

Many of the certified scientists become teachers of those seeking certification. The class is rigorous. It pushes students allowing them to grow and progress within their professions. It allows them to become more capable and more knowledgeable — characteristics that can only help increase the level of service provided.

During the class, students have a lot of fun and build strong friendships and camaraderie, but it’s also very serious. They create practice tests (not sanctioned by the NRCM) to give students an idea of where they need to study and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Accordingly, NRCM certification is an important aspect of the culture. It is a philosophical culture of quality service that is fully ingrained with the people and operations of the company — a company focused on providing testing that is valuable.

They don’t just provide test results. They work directly with their clients to understand what they really need. They make suggestions and recommendations. They help them prepare for how the FDA may react to their test results. They build relationships. NRCM certification is an integral part of the culture of success.

Once the class is completed, the students take the exam. Those who pass will receive their NRCM certification. It’s a big deal to become certified. When an employee passes an exam, a celebration of sorts takes place to recognize this important individual accomplishment and highly desirable component in a microbiologist’s career goals. It creates a great deal of pride and confidence that we believe clients see and feel, which in turn helps them feel comfortable with the commitment to quality and service. It helps strengthen relationships with clients.

According to the NRCM, certification can become an integral component in the success of a contracting laboratory in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

A long-term commitment to a well-thought-out system of support for employees seeking NRCM certification can demonstrate tangible results with a highly motivated, productive, and trained workforce that is committed to customer service. A proactive approach to certification is the key to success. NRCM views our management approach to microbiology certification as a model for both industry and government agencies.

Jeffery R. Nelson, M.B.A SM(NRCM) is the president and chief executive officer of Nelson Laboratories, Inc. a microbiological testing company specializing in sterilization and compliance testing for the medical device and pharmaceutical industries. He completed a Bachelors of Science (B.S.) degree at the University of Utah in Microbiology and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) at Westminster College where he was a member of the Delta Mu Delta Honor Society. He is a Specialist Microbiologist (SM) with the National Registry of Certified Microbiologists (NRCM). He can be reached at

(Expert Opinion posts reflect the views of their authors, and not the views of Contract Pharma. If you'd like to comment on Mr. Nelson's piece, log in and start a discussion in our Comments section below!)
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