HCA has been commissioned by the Australian Institute of Medical Scientists (AIMS), in partnership with the Australasian Association of Clinical Biochemists (AACB), to explore the “Establishment of a national model for professional certification of medical scientists and technicians working in Australian pathology laboratories”. This project has been funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health through its Quality Use of Pathology Program (QUPP).

Latest project activities

  • December 2018: Development of 2nd round draft Position Paper

  • November 2018: Final stakeholder workshop to discuss draft Position Paper

  • October 2018: development of 1st round draft Position Paper

  • June 2018: Delphi Conference, Round 2 – completed

  • May 2018: Delphi Conference, Round 1 – stakeholder consultation process to obtain contributions and feedback on proposed positions on specific elements of a projected certification scheme. 

  • April 2018: development of draft Position Paper 

  • February 2018: 1 day follow-up workshop with stakeholders

  • November 2017: 1 day stakeholder workshop convened to discuss critical elements for designing and implementing a certification scheme

  • October 2017: Development of Discussion Paper


Overview of the project

The project has been designed to explore professional certification through an evidence-based, coordinated and independent analysis of possible models and then through facilitated and mediated discussions between the relevant existing pathology service stakeholders bring a consensus on a single selected model. A set of potential options for establishing an objective, transparent and sustainable professional certification model and operating system for all medical scientists and technical staff working in Australian pathology laboratories will be developed for consideration.

History of the project

There is a long history preceding this project. The need for enhanced regulation of scientist competence was first raised through a formal application for registration of medical scientists to the Federal Government in May 2008. Unfortunately, a subsequent application to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA, which covers all Australian jurisdictions) for inclusion of medical scientists in the national accreditation regulatory framework was rejected. A recommendation, though, was made by AHPRA at that time for the medical science profession to develop a system of self-regulation.

This objective has been much discussed in the intervening almost 10 years but, through the lack of a coherent and compelling system design which addresses all stakeholder concerns, the idea has failed to progress. Accordingly, the scientific workforce of pathology laboratories is one of the few remaining professional health workforce groupings that are not subject to either mandatory regulation of standards for entry to the profession or for maintenance of those standards over time. A number of the other similarly placed health professions have initiated self-regulation, in the form of either accreditation or certification of their membership for entry and (to a greater or lesser extent) maintenance of professional competence. An agreed certification model for medical laboratory scientists may provide a useful platform for future engagement in this area (but is not an intended focus for the current project).

What are the project objectives?

The specific objectives of the current project are to:

  1. Provide stakeholders with a strong evidence base for assessing relevant models for professional certification.

  2. Engage the relevant scientific professional organizations in effective collaboration

  3. Craft initial consensus on possible ways forward among all pathology laboratory stakeholders Resolve outstanding stakeholder reservations in relation to model acceptance

  4. Provide a clear map to future action through an Implementation Plan

How will the project be undertaken?

A strong evidence base for action will be constructed through:

  • an examination of the suitability and effectiveness of similar certification arrangements in Australia and overseas (a literature review)

  • initial stakeholder engagement activities (face to face meetings or phone interviews with relevant peak organisations)

  • intensive analysis of overseas and Australian case studies where certification has been attempted (a case study analysis)

  • analysis of pathology laboratory stakeholder expectations for, and requirements of, a certification scheme (with a primary focus on the medical laboratory scientific workforce membership).

This will be explored and analysed through the preparation and distribution of a number of documents and through a range of opportunities for discussion.



Project reports

Draft Position Paper – This paper outlines the positions that have emerged and been developed from the extensive consultation processes for the design of the features of a certification scheme.

Download the draft Position Paper – Position Paper – Medical Laboratory Scientific Workforce Certification – Consultation Draft December 2018

Discussion Paper – This paper presents an outline of the critical elements for the development of a certification scheme. The paper also includes a brief review of a number of ‘case study’ professional certification schemes, including schemes for medical scientists in the UK, USA and South Africa, and canvassed the advantages and disadvantages of different methods of competency assessment.

Download the Discussion Paper – Medical Laboratory Scientific Workforce Certification Discussion Paper – November 2017

Useful tools and publications

‘Good Professional Practice in Biomedical Science’ – Institute of Biomedical Science, UK. Professional guidance document for standards of professional competence and conduct expected of biomedical science professionals in all aspects of their professional practice.

‘Standards of Proficiency – Biomedical Scientists’ – Health and Care Professions Council. The standards of proficiency for UK Biomedical Scientists.

‘Standards of Proficiency – Clinical Scientists’ – Health and Care Professions Council. The standards of proficiency for UK Clinical Scientists.

‘Self Regulating Health Profession Peak Bodies Membership Standards’ – The National Alliance of Self Regulating Health Professions (NASRHP). Proposed national framework of regulatory standards for Australian peak professional bodies who meet the standards to self regulate and accredit practitioners within that profession.