Course Title: Professional Practice in Laboratory Medicine 1

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Professional Practice in Laboratory Medicine 1

Credit Points: 36

Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


Bundoora Campus


160H Medical Sciences


Sem 1 2006,
Sem 1 2007,
Sem 1 2008,
Sem 1 2009,
Sem 1 2010,
Sem 2 2011

Course Coordinator: Dr. Cindy O'Malley

Course Coordinator Phone: 9925 7590

Course Coordinator

Course Coordinator Location: 223.2.01C

Course Coordinator Availability: Please email me to make an appointment

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities

Students will have the theoretical understanding and practical skills appropriate to them being placed in a workplace setting allowing them to develop the professional skills appropriate to their program.

Course Description

This course is conducted as a co-operative education sandwich course during which students undertake a program of supervised professional practice in either medical research, hospital or private pathology laboratory affiliated with the school, for the purposes of educating and training future diagnostic or research Medical Scientists.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

The planned learning experiences and the assessment activities in this course develop the following generic capabilities:
Solve problems: critical, creative and make decisions;
Manage: self, processes, information, and for quality;
Work: independently, as a team member, safely, within an accepted moral and ethical framework, and responsibly;
Awareness: environmental, resource, cultural and social contexts;
Communicate effectively;
Adaptable, and

The planned learning experiences and the assessment activities in this course develop the following:
specific professional capabilities:
discipline specific knowledge;
discipline specific psycho-motor skills, and
the ability to apply generic capabilities in a discipline specific context to achieve planned outcomes.

The combination of generic and professional capabilities will produce graduates who are life long learners, employable and who are potential leaders in their chosen field of endeavour.


The learning outcomes and competencies for ONPS2175 (Introduction to Laboratory Medicine 1) are the same as for ONPS2176 (Introduction to Laboratory Medicine 2)  as the learning experiences are acquired over the 40 weeks of placement.

The following learning outcomes should be interpreted in the knowledge of the discipline/s in which the student has completed their professional practice and of the characteristics of the laboratory in which this was undertaken.

On completion of this course it is intended that students should be able to:

1. prepare reagents, test samples, controls, standards and equipment in readiness to undertake analytical techniques and test procedures;
2. competently perform a range of analytical techniques and test procedures at the standard appropriate to the laboratory discipline in which they have completed their professional practice;
3. maintain and use a range of equipment appropriate to the laboratory discipline in which they have completed their professional practice;
4. determine the validity of test results based on an understanding of the limitations of the technique/s and equipment employed in the analytical procedure;
5. within the limits of their experience, interpret the clinical significance of valid test results using available clinical information;
6. indicate with justification, what further test/s might be appropriate to arrive at a definitive diagnosis for a patient (justification should include an awareness of any regulatory, ethical and resource implications of further testing);
7. describe, and where appropriate, use electronic (telephone/fax/computer) and paper-based systems of recording, storing and transmitting test results;
8. discuss the need for, preparation and use of laboratory operations and procedures manuals, and
9. describe the nature and operation of the quality systems employed in the laboratory to ensure the overall quality of the laboratory’s service delivery;

Overview of Learning Activities

As students are placed in a diverse range of laboratory settings it is not possible, or in fact desirable, to be too specific about the type of learning experiences that students might encounter. As guidance to supervisors and to students the learning experiences should be designed to address the professional competencies articulated for Medical Scientists in Australia. These are provided below along with examples of activities that address individual competencies. The extent to which each of the competencies is achieved will depend on the type of laboratory in which the student undertakes their professional practice. 

Unit 1. To be able to gather appropriate information and determine sample integrity.
Competence-You must be able to:
a) Confirm sample has been correctly prepared for intended tests.
b) Perform relevant check of sample integrity.
c) Take relevant action to deal with inadequately or incorrectly labelled specimens, inappropriate specimens, leaking specimens and incomplete request forms.
d) Take relevant action to manage problems with specimen integrity or associated risks.

Unit 2. To be able to select and use appropriate assessment techniques.
Competence-You must be able to:
a) Perform relevant assessment/analysis to prescribed protocol and prepare data in suitable format for interpretation.
b) Check calibration and control method is correct and equipment maintenance is completed for laboratory tests required.
c) Complete appropriate records for quality assurance, error logs, maintenance, calibration.
d) Ensure results are validated as analytically correct.
e) Explain the terms: linearity, cross-reactivity, sensitivity and clinical audit, with regard to the evaluation of a new laboratory technique.

Unit 3. To be able to undertake or arrange investigations as appropriate.
Competence-You must be able to:
a) Perform analyses relevant to the routine sample under investigation using prescribed protocols applicable to your work placement or field of employment.
Clinical Biochemistry
-Liver function tests
-Cardiac markers
-Urea and electrolytes
-Therapeutic drug monitoring
Haematology and Transfusion Science
-Blood and bone marrow smear preparation and staining
-Cell morphology
-Full blood counts
-Blood grouping and antenatal screening
-Compatibility testing
-Serological testing for antigen/antibody detection
-Blood components processing and monitoring
Histopathology and Cytopathology
-Tissue and cell preparation
-Microtomy of wax embedded tissues
-Cytological staining and troubleshooting
-Preparation of LBC specimens
-Screening and reporting of gynaecological and non-gynaecological specimens
-Histological staining for the identification of connective tissue, fibrin, amyloid, carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids, bacteria, pigments
-Analysis and reporting of histopathological tissues and cell preparations
-Molecular diagnostic methods
-Ancillary testing
-Serological antigen/antibody reactions for organ specific and organ non-specific antibodies
-Cell function tests
Microbiology and Virology
-Sterilisation and disinfection techniques
-Handling culture medium
-Sample inoculation and sub-culturing
-Culture methods for identification of common pathogens
-Susceptibility testing
-Serological procedures for common pathogens
-Microscopic identification of bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses.
-Differential staining techniques
-Molecular diagnostic methods
-Antigen and Toxin detection

Unit 4. To be able to analyse and critically evaluate the information collected.
Competence-You must be able to:
a) Perform relevant analyses to prescribed protocol and prepare data in suitable format for interpretation using all relevant results.
b) Use and interpret descriptive, quantitative and technical information in tabular and graph forms that conform to scientific convention.
c) Provide a factual report at a level of detail that meets the needs of the intended recipients.
d) Follow procedures for Point of Care Testing, as appropriate to your scope of practice.

Unit 5. To be able to use research, reasoning and problem solving skills to determine appropriate actions.
Competence-You must be able to:
a) Discuss current trends and modern techniques and their impact on healthcare.
b) Interpret case study data and present a conclusion
c) Critically review and evaluate research papers.
d) Use library catalogues and electronic databases to support a literature search.
e) Use research, reasoning and problem solving skills to make judgements or decisions in determining appropriate actions with regard to laboratory procedures and diagnosis.
f) Design, execute and draw conclusions from a small, independent scientific study.
g) Apply practice in line with current trends in biomedical science.

Unit 6. To be able to draw on appropriate knowledge and skills in order to make professional judgements.
Competence-You must be able to:
a) Use knowledge and skills within the limits of your practice to inform decisions regarding the investigation of clinical specimens.
b) Assess the merits of new techniques or procedures for routine use and service development, and apply them to practice.
c) Use basic laboratory information management systems (LIMS) in accordance with standard operating procedures to access and input data.

Unit 7. To be able to formulate specific and appropriate management plans, including the setting of timescales.
Competence-You must be able to:
a) Work within the departmental agreement of appropriate turn-around times.
b) Identify and verify factors affecting the prioritisation of analyses from a range of investigations.
c) Be able to analyse an incident and take corrective action.

Unit 8. To be able to conduct appropriate diagnostic or monitoring procedures, treatment, therapy or other actions safely and skilfully.
Competence-You must be able to:
a) Perform laboratory procedures and diagnostic tests in accordance with standard operating procedures and understand the health and safety requirements with respect to:
-Patient identification, sample type, protective clothing, hazard data sheets & equipment.
b) Describe the correct procedure for handling samples that may contain hazard group 2, 3 and 4 pathogens.
c) Use the following equipment correctly and safely:
-Balance, Centrifuge, hand-held pipette, fridges and freezers, pressurised gas storage containers.
d) Describe the principles and practice of standardisation and calibration and perform these procedures in accordance with standard operating procedures.
e) Explain the terms ‘specificity’, ‘sensitivity’ and ‘linearity’.
f) Explain the significance of reference ranges and reference materials.
g) Use the correct scientific units and be able to interconvert units.
h) Prepare buffers and other solutions in accordance with standard operating procedures.
i) Demonstrate practical skills in instrumentation and techniques relevant to your discipline:
-Electrophoretic techniques, including immunoelectrophoresis and blotting
-Electroanalytical techniques
-Automated analysis: continuous flow, multi-channel, discrete, selective, random access, centrifugal, kinetic end point
-Enzyme assays
-Molecular biology techniques
-Sterilisation techniques and microbial culture
-Identification and quantitation of micro-organisms
-Tissue preparation for microscopy
j) Confirm that samples have been correctly identified and prepared for intended tests.
k) Confirm that samples have been stored correctly and can be retrieved for laboratory investigation if required.
l) Produce results consistent with the laboratory procedure.
m) Perform calibration and quality control checks.
n) Correct simple faults in equipment.
o) Describe common causes of non-analytical errors and the implications of these for the test result.
p) Describe near-patient testing and non-invasive techniques employed by a pathology laboratory, and other settings such as primary care, for routine diagnosis and monitoring.

Unit 9. To be able to maintain records appropriately.
Competence-You must be able to:
a) Apply local protocols and guidelines to the handling of clinical information and keep accurate, legible records.
b) Work in accordance with standard operating procedures and keep accurate, legible laboratory records.
c) Complete an error log and know the possible implications of error.
d) Work in accordance with laboratory procedures for receipt of samples, dealing with inadequately or incorrectly labelled specimens and incomplete request forms.
e) Match samples to patient identification details and confirm unique identifier.
f) Use computer systems for test requesting and reporting.
g) Explain the importance for backup storage of electronic data.
h) Transcribe information accurately and legibly.

Unit 10. To be able to monitor and review the ongoing effectiveness of planned activity and modify it accordingly.
Competence-You must be able to:
a) Confirm suitability and validation of intended analytical method for the measurement required.
b) Indicate sequential testing or specialised tests that are appropriate to patient diagnosis or treatment.
c) Liaise with appropriate staff to clarify discrepancies or anomalies.
d) Explain the difference between internal quality control and external quality assurance and the type of data required.
e) Evaluate unexpected results.
f) Use quality assurance methods in accordance with laboratory procedure and take appropriate corrective action if required.

Unit 11. To be able to audit, reflect on and review practice.
Competence-You must be able to:
a) Explain the principles of audit and how to conduct an audit trail in the laboratory.
b) Confirm a sample has been tested in accordance with a quality assurance programme.
c) Record relevant quality indicators in accordance with standard laboratory procedures.
d) Explain the benefit of a case review.
e) Participate in (or conduct) a case presentation.

Unit 12. State and explain the key concepts of the bodies of knowledge, which are relevant to their profession-specific practice.
Competence-You must be able to:
a) Describe the key concepts of:
-Cellular pathology
-Clinical biochemistry
-Clinical immunology
-Immunohaematology and transfusion science
-Medical microbiology
-Clinical virology
b) Describe normal and pathological states related to human anatomy and physiology of the major organ systems in health and disease.
c) Describe the principles of scientific laboratory investigation including the difference between quantitative and qualitative methodologies.
d) Describe the relationship between pathology and the other professions in health and social care.
e) Describe the role of pathology laboratory in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients.
f) Describe the structure, function and metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids and proteins.
g) Describe the structure and function of genes and techniques used in the study of genetic material.
h) Describe the immune response in health and disease.
i) Describe the structure, physiology, biochemistry, classification and control of micro-organisms.
j) Describe how biomedical science contributes to the diagnosis and treatment of:
-Haematological disorders
-Neurological disease
-Endocrine disorders
k) Describe microscopic appearances of cells and tissues and relate these to underlying disease processes.
l) Describe simple histological procedures.
m) Use laboratory procedures to evaluate analyses using qualitative and quantitative methods to aid the diagnosis, screening and monitoring of health and disorders.
n) Describe normal and abnormal blood films, compare methods of analysis of haemoglobins, blood group antigens and antibodies.

Unit 13. Explain how professional principles are expressed and translated into action through a number of different approaches to practice, and how to select or modify approaches to meet the needs of an individual, groups or communities.
Competence-You must be able to:
a) Describe how different information can be obtained from the application of common techniques in the analysis of patient samples, eg: cell counts, ELISA, chromatography, stains.

Unit 14. Discuss the need to establish and maintain a safe practice environment.
Competence-You must be able to:
a) Work in a safe manner and act in accordance with health and safety legislation and safety policies applicable to the working environment.
b) Respond appropriately to information, instruction and training corresponding to local safety policy and procedures
c) Comply with local risk assessments, including OH&S Act 2004.
d) Correctly use personal protective equipment: laboratory coats, protective gloves, eye protection.
e) Confirm that work is carried out with due respect to different types of hazards including fire, electrical, biological, chemical, radiation, manual handling and the use of visual display units.
f) Confirm compliance with the staff health screening, prophylaxis and vaccination policies.
g) Use the correct disinfectants and procedures for dealing with chemical waste, confidential waste, clinical waste, sharps and chemical and biological spillages.
h) Ensure work is in accordance with laboratory procedures for the correct and safe use of fume cupboards, microbiological safety cabinets and other ventilation systems.
i) Handle samples in the correct manner according to protocols for minimising risk of infection. 


Overview of Learning Resources

The learning resources available to you during this course include the full resources of the laboratory and/ or hospital in which you are placed.

The RMIT Library holds books on topics such as:

*reflective learning,
*seminar presentations and technical writing (also browse at 808.0666),
*personnel management
*workplace communication, etc.
Check the Library’s catalogue at:

To find articles on these topics, search Library databases such as Proquest and Ebsco Business Source Premier for international articles, and APA Full text and Worklit for Australian material.

For an overview of Finding information on Laboratory Medicine, check:

Overview of Assessment

The assessment activities required in this course are designed to enhance the students written and oral communication skills and to encourage them to critically evaluate the working environment in which they find themselves. In the preparation of their journal entries they should demonstrate an ability to reflect on the significance of their experiences in meeting the objectives of the course.