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I always learn something new as a technical assessor

Karin Toska
Karin Toska is a technical assessor in medical biochemistry. Karin Toska is a chief physician at Oslo university hospital (OUS), Department of medical biochemistry. Her work is mainly divided between the laboratories at Ullevål and Rikshospitalet, but she has tasks at Aker and Radiumhospitalet as well. In addition, she has a part time position as professor of physiology at the University of Oslo.

Karin studied medicine at the University of Bergen, where she grew up. She moved to Oslo and has lived there for the last 40 years. She has worked as a doctor in internal medicine, neurology, and aviation medicine, and has done research in physiology, mainly circulatory physiology. Karin is a specialist in medical biochemistry. 

Analysing blood samples is important in order to diagnose diseases 

have an interest in biochemistry, physiology and pathophysiology, and has always been curious about what it takes to suspect and diagnose different diseases. Analysing blood samples is an important factor, and the field of medical biochemistry unites this.”  

She points out her interest in technology, and that she likes numbers, algorithms, instrumentation, data processing and control of the analytical process. These areas both challenge and interest me, she says.   

Karin says that being educated and working within aviation medicine introduced her to exceptionally good routines for handling quality work and non-conformance. Books like “Human Error” by James Reason, and “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System”, have contributed to her interest in patient safety and improvement.

Was encouraged to become a technical assessor – and has not regretted 

“My interest in quality improvement and especially process quality control made me sign up for courses and tasks as an internal assessor,” Karin says. She became approved as validation manager at her workplace, where she was already a chief physician. A colleague in Norwegian Accreditation encouraged her to try out as technical assessor, and she has not regretted it.  

 Karin Toska

Karin Toska is technical assessor in all fields within medical biochemistry (M12) and assesses according to ISO 15189 Medical laboratories – Requirements for quality and competence  

My perceptions get challenged 

“Each assessment starts with receiving an organization’s scope of accreditation, reports and non-conformities from last assessment, and access to the laboratory’s quality management system, either as a guest user or by receiving a USB stick with documentation. I then go through the material and make suggestions to the lead assessor about what to assess,” Karin says. Lead assessor then issue an agenda for the assessment visit. Karin highlights that cooperation with the lead assessor and other technical assessors is inspirational and important. “At each assessment visit I learn something new, and my perceptions are always challenged,” she says. She finds it rewarding to meet different professionals, and says the conversations and discussions are valuable. The assessment visits can be both demanding and challenging, and she is always excited and a little nervous before the assessment. 

Karin says it can be challenging to gain good insight and overview of the quality management system and all different instrumentation in each laboratory before arriving on site. And in a hectic workday it can be difficult to complete the assessment report on time.  

Had to adapt to digital tools for assessment 

The covid pandemic resulted in cancelled congresses and conferences during the spring of 2020. Karin spent the extra time adapting to digital lectures, group discussions, courses for medical students and meetings at the laboratory where she works. So, when June came and she had her first remote assessments, she was well prepared. “It went surprisingly well, I managed to assess much more than I thought would be possible,” she says, and adds: “but it is not the same as visiting the laboratories in real life.” The restrictions due to covid-19 have showed there are some advantages of not having to travel everywhere, but she is looking forward to being able to visit different laboratories again. “Perhaps a combination of on site and remote assessments is the future,” she says.  

When not at work as a chief physician, professor or technical assessor, Karin likes to spend time with her big family, with husband, children, and grandchildren. A lot of time is spent by the ocean at the newly built cabin in Bamble  

Read more about how to become a technical assessor for Norwegian Accreditation.