When I left my position at Penn to pursue ACTS full time, it was bitter sweet. I was leaving a job that I loved and coworkers that I enjoyed working with for the opportunity to eliminate my 3 hour per day commute and focus all my efforts on training, as opposed to training plus all the other things that come with working at an institution. My first thoughts were, “What can I do to help programs provide more consistent training,” and “What could I have used as a trainer but didn’t have time to develop?” Many programs have more than one person training new hires which can lead to slight inconsistencies that magnify overtime. In addition, even those programs that have dedicated trainers, there is so much training to do, development of new tools and programs often get put lower on the priority list. These facts led to the development of the ACTS Job Skills Training Program Modules. Hundreds of hours by people with various experiences and backgrounds in research were dedicated to help develop tools for knowledgeable individuals (trainers, senior technicians, supervisors, etc.) to provide consistent training for husbandry, technical, and even clinical tasks. These modules include everything needed for a program to provide consistent training with the flexibility to tailor the training to specific SOPs and other unique facility or program procedures. There are five parts to each module: A pre-assessment helps the trainer get to know their audience; pre-requisite work, provides a foundation of knowledge for the trainee before they attend the actual training session; a lesson plan, guides the actual training session and ensures consistency between trainers; a post assessment, evaluates new knowledge and skills gained by the trainee; and finally, a performance support acts as a reference for trainees as they apply their new knowledge and skills back on the job. My hope is that whether a trainer is tasked with building a training program from scratch, or attempting to refine a current training program, these tools will give anyone involved in training a head start.
Archive for the ‘Training’ Category
The Rodent Breeding and Colony Management Seminar and Vendor Fair started when I was a Training Coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania. The research program was growing and housing space for rodents was becoming prime real estate, as was in most similar institutions. One day I happened to be walking through one of the buildings between training sessions and began an informal conversation with a research technician. I asked him how his lab was dealing with the need for more space. He said, “If I managed my colony better, we would have plenty of space.” I was shocked and started asking other researchers about their space and colony management practices. I found the same story over and over again. Things like genotyping too late, not weaning on time, and other common themes that reflected poor colony management, and therefore, a lot of wasted space. From then on, I was determined to provide the tools needed for researchers to manage their colonies as efficient as possible to save both space and money. We invited experts in rodent breeding and colony management, and vendors who provided products or services that could help researchers better manage their colonies and support their research to our first event in 2003. We invited scientists from outside the institution and it was a success, for both researchers and vendors. My favorite feedback from a researcher was, “Thank you for getting all this information all in one place!” My favorite feedback from a vendor was, “I go to the Bio Fair where hundreds of people attend, but I get more people stopping at my table, and more direct leads, at this event.” After I left Penn in 2009, I knew how much time and work it took to coordinate the event, and how much more training was now being provided by the training group, so ACTS asked the University of Pennsylvania if we could coordinate the event for them. They said yes and after that we “took the show on the road.” Since then, ACTS has hosted two events at Penn, one event at Baylor College of Medicine, and one event at Mount Sinai. We continue to get positive feedback from both participants and vendors, so are happy to continue the event with a wider reach for 2013.
Mass General Hospital
New York City
Mt. Sinai University
Univ Of Penn
Registration is Free and will be open soon.
Do you remember taking your last AALAS certification exam? Were you nervous that you hadn’t studied enough, or that maybe you studied the wrong information? For many of us, this is the case. Most facilities do not have a weekly class where you can go over information, share ideas, and develop test taking strategies. The AALAS certifications are an important part of our industry. Many of us have come to work in the field by chance, and these certifications are a way for us to show that we care enough about our work to go above and beyond the status quo. ACTS is committed to helping technicians advance in the field of laboratory animal medicine and has decided to create weekly, live, online courses designed to help you sit successfully for your AALAS exam.
Registration is open for our Online AALAS Certification Exam Prep Courses. These courses are offered at the ALAT, LAT and LATG levels and offer the convenience of recorded sessions in case you are not able to attend the weekly live session. The links below will take you to each of the exam’s registration pages. Go to our ‘online courses’ tab to learn more and register for upcoming classes!
By Christine Charlebois, Associate Director for Global Research Compliance, Merck
As the lab animal technician, you are the person doing the hands on work in the lab. Dosing, bleeding, anesthesia, restraint, surgical nursing; you do it all. But where do you find the instructions for the activities you perform? There are many resources for getting this information; however the BEST source is the IACUC protocol.
The IACUC protocol is the detailed description of the proposed use of laboratory animals. Think of it as a contract approved by the IACUC for all research with animals. Everyone who participates on the study is required to follow the protocol, nothing more, and nothing less. So, have you read the protocol?
Below are a few examples of helpful information found in the protocol:
- Dose volume and route
- Blood volumes and route
- List of approved analgesics and anesthetics
- Clinical signs
- Observation intervals
- Post operative care plans
- Feeding regimen
- Emergency contact information
IACUC protocols are accessible as a hard copy or electronically. Regardless of the format, you will need to read the protocol and follow it exactly. Before you begin working on the study, request a hard copy or access to the electronic version to review the procedures and methods described in the protocol. If you see something in the protocol that doesn’t match your service request, or does not match current practices, bring the discrepancy to your supervisor or the Principal Investigator. A search of the AWA Inspection Reports on the USDA-APHIS website reveals repeated citations stating “animal activities are not being conducted as outlined in the protocol”. This is an easy citation to avoid.
So, when you go to work tomorrow, ask for a copy of the protocol. Read the protocol. Ask questions if you see a discrepancy. Then, when someone asks you “Have you read the protocol lately?” you can answer a resounding “Yes!”
“I got the results I prepared for.” That’s a quote from Michael Phelps during an interview with Bob Costas after winning a whole lot of Olympic Gold medals.
On face value this statement makes a lot of sense. Of course he prepared (and one might say even worked hard) to get his Olympic Medals. We all watched his preparation pay off, sometimes winning a race by fractions of a second and at other times blowing away his competition.
We would even imagine that other athletes made this same claim, “I got the results I prepared for”. How about the Fabulous Five, the way they decisively took hold of the chance to reclaim a gold medal for the US Women’s Gymnastics Team. And who can forget Mo Farah’s 10,000M Men’s Final. As he is about to cross the finish line he looks around to see who might be making a move on him and to his shock he is all alone as he is first to cross the finish line.
These are just a few of the many stories of great triumph that we saw or heard about from the resent Olympic Games. Great athletes getting the results they prepared for. It all makes sense because at our core, we know if we work hard we will get the prize. The prize will vary from person to person but it’s all the same – a great job, a passing grade, board certification, that special person that caught your eye or even a gold medal.
But here’s the catch, Michael Phelps said this just as he acknowledged there were some races that he didn’t win. As I listened to his interview I thought, wait a minute, is he saying he prepared for the results of ALL his races, even for the races he didn’t win. And it seems that that is exactly what he was saying. Whatever the outcome of the race that is what I prepared for. My level of preparation dictated the outcome. Phelps’ comment becomes more provocative when put in this perspective.
So what does this mean? If I come in 4th it’s because I prepare enough to come in fourth. If I come in 1st than I prepared enough to come in 1st and if I am last in a field of 12 I prepared for and worked hard enough to come in 12th.
Our level of preparation and hard work will dictate our outcome. Throughout our journey we prepare for and work hard and even set goals. At the “end of the day” it’s my hope we can say with conviction “I prepared for every result I had”?
By Susan Pack, Training Manager, University of Pennsylvania
I often think about the developmental changes that occur when international students or workers come to the United States. What challenges do they face and what emotional obstacles are encountered? For those who come to work or study in the U.S., how do they transition into this western culture, while maintaining their own cultural identity?
When international scholars come to the U.S. their developmental changes continues. In turn their American counterparts need to build an awareness of cross-cultural differences, embrace change, and truly appreciate and understand the needs of a diverse workplace, as we all try to reach the same goal of exceptional research and animal care.
International postdoctoral students make up a significant portion of our biomedical research community in the U.S., it is logical that we need to better understand their needs, be respectful of their unique situations, and aid in their adjustment to this new U.S. biomedical research work environment. Important questions to consider include the following: How do members of this group fit into our American society and into the biomedical community? What are their struggles and how can we ultimately improve relationships between American and international researchers? How can we help in their transition and build strong relationships that will benefit all involved, including the research animals?
We need to find creative ways of improving communication, and look closely at this group of international biomedical researchers to determine communication difficulties. Are cultural differences being perceived as “rudeness” or “disrespect”? Ultimately, how does culture and language play a role in miscommunications that are taking place?
Other international groups working or studying in the U.S. have been studied rather intensely in regards to acculturation. These populations include groups such as international teaching assistants, international undergraduate students, international healthcare workers, and international medical graduates. Their struggles and patterns of acculturation are similar to those of the international postdoctoral groups working in the U.S. All groups above have struggles with language, as well as “fitting in” to the western culture. Many experience difficulty mastering the English language (especially “slang” language), as well as normal social “American” behavior. On top of that, consider the regulatory differences between countries, potential differences in medical/biomedical discourse, as well as differences in ethical considerations, especially when using animals in research. All of these factors can lead to miscommunication between international scholars and their American counterparts or service providers.
These are some general experiences, differences and difficulties that international postdoctoral students may encounter during their postdoctoral experience in the US. In addition, the findings of these other similar sample populations stress the need for more acculturation research.
Although there are many guides throughout the internet, supports from academic institutions hosting international postdoctoral students, and suggestions from reputable organizations (such as the National Postdoctoral Organization), there still needs to be guided support from American counterparts and most importantly an awareness of cultural differences and cultural needs. When working with foreign scholars, institutions must determine what struggles they face and then provide them with guidance and resources. We have the opportunity to assist these individuals in gaining a better understanding of their roles as researchers and understanding of cultural patterns in the U.S. that they might not otherwise be acclimated to. The goal of this article is to peak your interest in the topic of intercultural communication in the biomedical workplace, open your mind to cross-cultural differences, and hopefully allow you to improve relationships with international scholars you work with on a regular basis.
If a large branch falls in the woods and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? If I empty the dishwasher and there is no one in the house to recognize my significant contribution to the stability of the home, does it count? Yes, my contributions count and the branch does make a sound. The significance is in the events and not whether or not there was an audience.
If you as a worker in the animal care industry find that you are making significant contributions but are unsure if anyone hears or cares, I’d like you to know that we do care and we want to hear.
We want to hear your story, what brought you to such a noble profession, what made you stay when things around you made you feel less than secure, and what made you decide to be world famous at what you do.
Through the trainings that we offer we have the fortunate opportunity to hear people’s stories. And I must admit they are humbling and amazing and funny and we want to hear more. Just recently I spoke with a woman who was a chauffeur prior to coming into our industry. Another gentleman was a chef looking for something different. There’s also the story of the son who got into the industry because it was part of the family legacy. I believe people want to share their stories because it makes them more real. I believe we need to hear each other’s stories because it makes us more real and in doing so we care a little more.
I recently met with a lab animal group that had come under some significant pressure from animal rights extremists. Just asking them why they stayed at their job blew me away. Here are some of their replies: “Because I didn’t want to stop caring for the animals” … “the people protesting what I do still deserve the benefits of our research” and … “the people that I work with care about me and we need each other”. What great testimonies of commitment to purpose.
These are the stories we need to hear. These are stories that make us real to each other and spur us on to continue pursuits of excellence and dedication for the noble thing we do.
There will be branches in the woods that fall and no one hears, and there will be times you make significant contributions to the world around you with no audience. May this be of one of many forms of encouragement to keep doing what you do, keep creating chapters to your story. It still matters! And some day maybe you will have the chance to share your story with others.
I remember as a child my mom would always tell me to stop always asking “why” and just do what I was told. I believe she was on to something that most parents understand. There are times when you just need to do what you are told and trust, especially as a 5 year old child. On a visit with my God Son who at the time was 4 we had the most riveting conversation all based on the word “why”. Never in my life had I been asked so many “why” questions, “why doesn’t Spiderman run out of webs, why does Kryptonite make Superman lose his powers, why don’t you live in Atlanta …… why is the sky blue?
I believe as we get older there is a transition point where the ban on asking why is lifted and we slowly emerge into a world where it’s okay to ask why. This can be a scary and challenging place for some. Asking why has the potential to challenge assumptions and reveal answers that may be difficult at times to answer and embrace.
There are problem solving techniques that require asking why to uncover the root cause of a problem. There are times when we ask why out of frustration because we have no other recourse of action. There are times when we ask why to get better understanding and clarity of purpose. All are legitimate reasons to ask why.
Have you ever been given a task and wanted desperately to ask a why question? “Why me, why this way or why now” Or have there been times when these why questions have been asked of you? There is a time and place to ask why. Maybe not in the middle of a crisis requiring immediate action but certainly there should be space for why questions in the course of our day. Consider this: If you want clarification or deeper understanding, you may have to ask”why”. If someone asks why of you, it’s often because they want clarification and deeper understanding. As shocking as it may be, sometimes our communication is not always as eloquent and thorough as we would hope.
As a progressive leader encourage those around you to ask the “why” questions and embrace the questions when asked of you. The more clarity and purpose you can provide to your staff the better chance of their success, your success and the success of the organization. Should you not currently be in a position of leadership, let this be your permission to ask those why questions, your supervisor isn’t my “mom”;) it’s okay to ask.
We have all heard it said “you can’t teach an old dog a new trick”. I have most often heard this statement made in reference to someone that is unwilling to learn or adjust to a change in their surroundings. I have even heard this statement in reference to ones staff or employees that are perceived as unwilling to change or learn something new, “All they want is to stay in cage wash”.
For someone that has had dogs most of my life it’s hard to figure out where this statement came from. I have found that dogs do in fact tend to learn all kinds of new things throughout their lives, even in their more senior years. So if the statement isn’t true for dogs than maybe it’s not true for people.
My mom is completely unwilling to own a cell phone or a microwave. At first I thought she was falling into the “you can’t teach an old dog a new trick” quagmire. However when needing to use a cell phone or a microwave she is more than willing to do so. My moment of eureka came when I saw that my mom was more than willing to learn something new. She has no problem using my microwave when visiting and with a bit of instruction she can even use the cell phone. She just doesn’t want to own either.
The problem with using the statement “you can’t teach an old dog a new trick” is that we start to believe it. It’s not true for dogs and it’s certainly not true for people. Yes you may find that you or someone you know is unwilling to learn but that is very different from not being able to learn. Our challenge as trainers, educators and manager of people is to assume that all of our learners are willing to learn and then create such an atmosphere that the only way they will not learn is if they willfully choose to not learn.
We are all capable of learning new things. ACTS has the privilege of training lots of people and there is nothing more gratifying than seeing someone learn a skill, technique, or concept which had previously eluded them.
My goal is to have some we have empowered give a testimony that says the following “ACTS provided a training session that made me believe you can teach an old dog a new trick”.
This isn’t a self serving memoir, although a memoir might be something I would like to do in my future. Instead, I hope this article will serve to illustrate / help you to better understand the power of self-motivation. The premise being that if we can motivate ourselves then external motivators will enhance our drive toward excellence. I use my story because from a very early age I knew what I wanted to be a veterinarian and, in spite of some difficulties and setbacks, I achieved my goal.. It may be that my experience will provide enough clarity to verify the premise.
I was born to parents of modest income inWest Philadelphia. I sometimes would like to say “yeah, I grew up in the hood” but in reality I just grew up in a home where my parents cared about me, pushed me to be better when I wasn’t at my best and let me ride my bike without a helmet. My neighborhood was fairly integrated, meaning there were black people and white people living as neighbors. Many neighborhoods in Philly at that time were segregated. As a kid I spent as much time as possible outside playing with all of my friends. I could be found playing sports in the street, running around the neighborhood, sitting out on the porch steps late at night, playing monopoly and pre-pubescent games that my mom would die if she know I was playing J
It was a fairly normal existence from the way I saw it. But as I look back there were a few pivotal things that I believe made the difference for me. I will just list them in order of remembrance and not occurrence as I don’t think the chronology is so much important as is the activity. In second grade we spent the entire school year in North Carolina living on my cousin’s farms (The school district in Philadelphia was going on strike and my parents didn’t want us to miss school.) My Cousin Joe was always happy to let me help him take care of the animals, and I would help as much as I could. When I returned to Philly I went to private school through high school. My dad and mom were big readers and encouraged us to do the same. My mom always made a point to take us to the library often during the summers. I think I read every book that had anything to do with animals. It was through this extensive reading that I decided I was going to be a veterinarian.
During high school I started to see that things don’t always go as planned. All set for college, I was destined to do well at the University of Maryland and begin my journey to becoming a vet. However, only a week before enrolling I was told that there wasn’t money for me to go to school. Student loans and grants all fell through and my parents didn’t have the money to send me to college. Thankfully, with a bit of faith and lots of favors from family and friends I found a way to enroll. Once in college I found out quickly that maintaining good grades was way harder than I thought it would be. I had to work really hard to make good grades. In spite of all of my hard work I didn’t get into vet school immediately after completing my undergraduate studies as I’d expected. I received an invitation to attend a summer program for potential vet students (thank you Tuskegee University) . I worked hard in the program and at the end of the summer session was admitted into vet school. Today I run my own training company; I have worked for a variety of institutions, and have crossed paths with some of the most amazing people in the industry. I continue to look forward to new opportunities to make a significant impact for good in the lives of the people we have the privilege of working with.
In summary, the foundation of the motivational factors in my life is two-fold. First, as a little kid I already knew that I wanted to be a vet. I didn’t realize how hard it would be but I believed it could be possible for me. Second, I believed if I worked hard to move through obstacles and challenges it would pay off. In life people can be and do whatever they put their mind to. They just have to put their mind to something they believe in. Providing external motivators like bonuses, titles, autonomy, money and verbal encouragement are great, but they will never truly satisfy if there is no internal driver or motivator. If you are working with a person who seems to lack self motivation, take the time to help them find or rediscover what motivates them. Or, if you feel stuck and appear to have lost your internal motivator, make it a priority to find it because the reality is true for us all – if we aren’t self motivated, no amount of external motivation will ultimately satisfy. To discover our internal motivators, and help others find theirs is a significant key to unlocking potential and allowing our best abilities to shine.