How to be a Quality Manager
My role as Quality Manager for the Viapath Tissue Sciences laboratories at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals led me to be invited to speak at this year’s IBMS Congress on the topic of ‘How to be a successful Quality Manager’. This isn’t an easy thing to define; however, here is a review of the approaches I use in my role.
The IBMS define a Quality Manager as ‘the individual with responsibility as a management representative for ensuring all aspects of quality within a quality management system function correctly.’
The role can be wide and varied, but in general it includes:
· Management and oversight of the quality management system (QMS)
· Monitoring and supporting quality improvement
· Ensuring that the requirements of ISO 15189 and any other external assessment and regulatory bodies are met
· Risk management and mitigation
· Investigation of incidents by using root cause analysis and developing action plans
· Representing the laboratory in clinical governance
In other words, the Quality Manager is involved in virtually every aspect of the service, as ‘quality’ tends to feature in everything! As the role is so diverse, there are different approaches to tackling all the different aspects. Below are the key points that help me succeed in my role:
A qualification in Quality Management has helped me with the theory to support the practical aspects of my role – this gives me confidence!
W Edward Deming said: ‘In God we trust; all others bring data’. By asking constant questions of the team that I work with, I ensure that quality management procedures are in place in the laboratories and, most importantly, are being followed.
I am trained in Cellular Pathology so I have experience of working in most of the disciplines that I cover. I find that by understanding what goes on in the laboratories, I can give more in-depth advice to the Operations Managers, and help them to understand how the accreditation standard applies to their service.
Objectivity is vital and to achieve this I try to stand outside of the laboratory operations whenever I can! It is much easier to give an unbiased view if I can look in from the outside as I can gain a clearer view of the areas that need improvement. This is particularly useful when incident investigation is required!
When I started in this role I took some time to establish where all my laboratories stood in regards to quality management. This helped me to ascertain what was required to improve the QMS and establish some aims for quality improvement.
I try to be visible and make sure all members of staff know who I am and what I do. This helps to make quality management accessible to everyone.
This is particularly important in assessment visits. The Operations Managers in my area rely on me to direct them before and after assessment visits and provide them with action plans.
Almost every event provides a learning opportunity, be it an audit, an external assessment or an incident. All the Quality Managers in Viapath share learning which drives improvement in each department.
It is a significant part of my role to keep improving the QMS in order to keep up with new learning and any changes to accreditation standards.
This is possibly one of the most difficult aspects of the job as all improvements and changes need to be implemented by the laboratories.
As Quality Manager, I am part of the management team. This helps me to know what’s going on in our service, as otherwise, the quality/change management aspects of any developments can be easily overlooked. I’ve also got an excellent team of Quality Officers who support me in implementing changes and making sure compliance is maintained in the laboratories.
I spend as much time as I can on teaching aspects of the QMS to colleagues. This improves understanding across the laboratories and helps with maintaining compliance.
Quality Managers spend a lot of their time supporting others and reviewing others’ work, but I’ve found that it’s vital to make time to complete my own work and projects. This is always challenging, but, achieving my own objectives helps me to stay motivated. This also puts me in a better position to motivate others, and this is essential for achieving success!
I have found that to be a ‘successful’ Quality Manager you need to:
· Be part of the team, but remain unbiased
· Understand the service, but be prepared to question everything you’re told
· Be a leader, but also be approachable
· Be clear on where you’re going and how to get there, as well as where you’ve come from
· Be an authority on the accreditation standards, while remembering there is more to quality management than accreditation!
· Be both a teacher and a student (always learning!)
If you can achieve all that, then maybe Quality Management is for you, too!
1. IBMS. Guidance on Quality Management in Laboratories. 2015.
2. The Deming Institute. https://deming.org
For further information, please contact:
Fiona R Denham CSci, FIBMS; Viapath’s Tissue Sciences laboratories
Fiona [dot] Denham [at] viapath [dot] co [dot] uk