Chemistry Division Administrative Services
All samples which are analyzed by the Chemistry Division need to be logged into the computer system database referred to as a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). This allows the analysts within the division to electronically track the progress of the samples.
Logging in of a sample proceeds through certain steps:
- Receive the sample noting the date and time of receipt
- Performing certain tests at sample receipt to ensure the validity of the sample (temperature)
- Assigning a unique code number to the sample
- Entering the demographic data on the sample into the computer database
- Assigning the appropriate tests to the sample
- Delivering the sample to the proper laboratory areas for analysis
Sample reporting is handled automatically. The computer system keeps track of when a sample has had all of its test results entered. Log in personnel will ask the system to generate reports and at this time the system will step through the database and print all samples which have had all of their test results entered and which have not been printed previously. These reports are then forwarded to the individual analysts for their approval and signature.
The fact that we store all of our data electronically coupled with the fact that many of our instruments are now computer driven means that we can facilitate data entry of analytical results by tying these two electronic components together. Significant productivity gains are seen when this is accomplished. All computerized instruments in the inorganic portion of the laboratory have been "hooked" into the sample database.
The Chemistry Division of the North Dakota Department of Health certifies between 25 and 30 laboratories within the state for a variety of environmental analyses. Environmental analytical results reported to most programs in the Health Department must be produced by a certified laboratory. Certification includes an onsite inspection of each laboratory at least once every three years. During the onsite inspection, the laboratory's instrumentation and equipment is inventoried to ensure that the laboratory is properly equipped to perform the tests for which it is certified or seeking certification, compliance with basic good laboratory practices is checked, methodology is reviewed to ensure that the laboratory is using approved methods, documentation of data and other information is reviewed, and quality control practices and documentation are reviewed.
Out-of-state laboratories can have their certification by other certification programs recognized by our certification program provided the other program is found to be substantially equivalent to our own.
We have the capability to automatically transfer quality control check results for some tests directly to the LIMS from some of the instruments. We can control chart quality control check results directly from the LIMS.
We have a reasonably up-to-date written quality assurance plan describing the division's quality assurance/quality control procedures and practices.
We have a designated quality assurance coordinator.
We participate in a number of proficiency test programs on an ongoing basis to check our proficiency at measuring a number of different parameters in a variety of sample types.
We use a wide range of information systems to facilitate the timely and accurate transmission of information.
We have a Laboratory Information Management System into which all samples are logged when they first enter the building. This same system generates listings for the chemists of work that needs to be done. We use data acquisition computers to collect the data from the instruments used to analyze samples. In many cases, this data, after review by the analyst, is automatically transferred back to the LIMS and recorded there for the sample. The LIMS prints out the final reports for the analysts to sign prior to dispersal.
At home, a computer is usually using only one operating system (such as Windows 95). We use at least seven different operating systems on this campus, and up to three different operating systems on a single computer. Despite this variety of operating systems, and applications, it is imperative for our computers to be able to communicate with each other.
Our computers are connected together on a Local Area Network that permits them to communicate with each other. We have three main network servers, multiple print and communication servers/host, and numerous printers. The buildings on this campus are connected with fiber optics. We are connected into a Wide Area Network (WAN) with the Health Dept. campus at the Missouri Office Building on the west side of Bismarck. This permits the computers, and their users, in the MOB to directly access our servers (and vice versa). The Health Dept. employees there use this capability to immediately access laboratory results as soon as they enter the LIMS. They also can check on the status of the samples they have submitted.
Beyond the WAN, this campus is connected to the "state backbone" in the Capitol, and from there to the Internet. We can communicate via computer with anybody else in state government, any one who has Internet access in their home, or anyone in the world. Our employees can share their professional expertise with chemists around the world in this manner, and can receive assistance from other in the same manner when we need help.