What is Proficiency Testing?

What is Proficiency Testing?

ISO accreditation is a sign that a lab adheres to established standards. Included in these guidelines are sample handling procedures and everyday hygiene practices.

Accreditation according to ISO 15189 and ISO/IEC 17025 mandates that the analytical results be monitored for quality.

Participating in a proficiency testing (PT) program, often known as an external quality evaluation, is one technique to check lab operations. This means that PT should be a part of any quality management system.

If you’ve ever wondered how to get better results from proficiency testing and why you should bother doing so, this post is for you!


What is a Proficiency Test (PT)?

A lab’s methods and the people who follow them can be evaluated through proficiency testing. A wide range of organizations run PT programs. Each PT program in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States will have its own set of guidelines and procedures for handling participant data.

Samples for known contamination levels will be prepared in each administration center.

Participating labs receive PT samples and perform the required tests, with the results being transmitted back to the administration center for further review and analysis.

The administration center then compiles the data and assigns a score to each participant. All labs are completely anonymous. Since the participating labs can’t be identified, the results of their tests can be compared with those of other labs.

Lab managers can identify employees that need additional training based on the data gathered during PT. As a result, the lab as a whole benefit from more standardized working methods. It also helps the team stay on top of their game when it comes to following standard processes.

Staff can benefit from PT by learning more about the ‘risk’ areas of assessment. It’s important for lab employees to understand how their work contributes to the overall quality of the finished product. Employees will be able to see their contribution to the company’s success as a result.

PT data can also be used by lab management to modify methods if necessary. When a laboratory’s sample count grows rapidly, the quality of the results may suffer.

There is a possibility that this is a transient adjustment period, or that it is a sign of a more serious problem. Using a decline in satisfactory findings as a chance to re-evaluate protocols and devise solutions to streamline processes is a good strategy for lab managers.


What is the Best Way to Handle PT Samples?

PT should take place in the same environment as usual testing. Using a sterile fume cupboard to process PT samples and a standard countertop to handle ordinary samples won’t provide us any insight into everyday working procedures.

Any findings would be of no use to the lab’s day-to-day operations. As tempting as it may be for PT to guarantee that the best possible results are reported, the focus should be on making sure every sample is properly handled.

The samples must be treated like routine samples if PT is to be effective.

It is essential that all those who have received training and are routinely involved with routine testing are included in the PTA.

There is no requirement for everyone in a lab team to participate in every round of testing, so groups of people can be rotated through a testing schedule throughout the year. Standard operating procedures must be established for PT sample handling in order to maintain uniformity among technicians and laboratories.

The following are some of the potential benefits which may be available to participating laboratories:

  • Comparing methods and procedures to identify testing or measurement issues Improving performance
  • Educating staff; Instilling confidence in staff, management and external laboratory users; Generating reference materials
  • Determining method precision and accuracy;
  • Satisfying regulators and accreditation bodies;
  • Providing laboratories with additional risk management tools.


 Despite the fact that not all of the aforementioned benefits will be relevant to specific PT programs, some of the above benefits will be available to participants regardless of which PT program they choose.


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