By Adam Hall, Senior Consultant for Current Consulting Group (CCG)
This information is provided for educational purposes only. Reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein.
Whether a drug test is performed for pre-employment, random, or for other purposes, each drug test begins the same way: a sample must be collected. This is the case for all drug testing methods. For instance, a hair sample must be cut or shaved off an individual. A urine sample is provided into a cup, and similarly a saliva sample is swabbed and placed in a small vial or container.
Regardless of the reason or methodology for a drug test, they all begin with a collection, and that collection is conducted by the all-important collector.
Who Can Be a Collector?
Virtually anyone can be a collector. In fact, many types of collections require little to no official training before an individual can be considered a collector.
Federal collections, such as collections conducted for Department of Transportation (DOT) mandated-testing, require the collector to hold an official certification, but this certification is relatively easy to obtain. An individual must pass a written test and conduct five error-free mock collections to be considered a “DOT-certified” collector.
Perhaps because of the perceived simplicity of becoming a collector, this vital service is sometimes viewed as entry level, or associated with low wages and minimal education requirements. Although this characterization may be accurate in some cases, the importance of a collector is far greater than this lowly perception.
The Importance of the Collector
The key to a successful drug test is integrity throughout the entire process. Laboratories follow specific protocols from the time they receive a sample to the time they release a result to ensure the testing and reporting processes are not compromised. Medical Review Officers (MROs), who are certified physicians, are responsible for ensuring an individual’s private medical information is protected while also providing a reliable result to employers. However, the overall drug testing process begins with the collection, and if the collector fails to conduct a collection properly, then the overall process is broken at the beginning.
An important thing to understand about collectors is that they are often conducting multiple collections throughout the day. Each collection is equally important as the last, so the collector must maintain collection site integrity for each test. Depending on the type of collection being conducted, this process may be more tedious than for other types of collections. For instance, it is not uncommon for collectors to be required to conduct collections in the field, away from the comforts of a controlled collection facility. These onsite collections require the collector to bring all materials necessary to ensure the proper protocols are followed for each sample collection. This also means the collector will be responsible for transporting the samples or maintaining the samples in a safe environment until proper shipping to the laboratory can be completed.
A Collector’s Responsibilities Vary
A significant obstacle collectors may face is when a donor is unable to provide a sample. This is mostly associated with urine testing, as a person may not always be able to provide a sufficient volume of urine on demand. When this happens, donors are usually held in a monitored waiting area and allowed to drink a certain amount of fluid. Especially if a collector is handling multiple collections, properly monitoring these waiting areas can be difficult. A collector may recruit someone to assist in this process, such as an HR representative or coworker, but the collector is ultimately responsible for the collection and the donor’s compliance with collector instructions.
The responsibilities of a collector are not limited to the integrity of the collection process. One aspect of being a collector requires them to act as the face of the company for whom they are working. In other words, the collector is representing their organization, and their competence and temperament can go a long way in maintaining business contracts with their customers.
For example, if a collector conducts 10 collections for one company, and all 10 donors report a pleasant experience with that collector, the employer of the 10 donors is likely to continue utilizing the same service provider for their collection needs. In contrast, if those 10 donors report a negative experience, the employer is likely to reconsider their contract and move their business elsewhere. In this example, the only personal interactions that occurred were between the donors and the collector, and that small negative experience suddenly has a large impact.
How collectors conduct themselves is important to both the collector’s employer and the companies they are serving.
Being a collector is far more than haphazardly collecting samples for drug tests. Some may view the role as an entry-level or use it as a foot-in-the-door, so to speak, to achieve higher positions within an organization, but the importance of the collector reaches far beyond what meets the eye. Maintaining the integrity of the collection process is paramount to the success of the overall drug testing process and, for the most part, collectors bear that responsibility. They serve as the janitor, cleaning the collection area after a long day of conducting multiple collections. They might also serve as the courier, hauling samples from one job site to the next. They are definitely the representative of an organization, ensuring customers receive exemplary service. Upon close review, it is easy to see that they are more than just a collector.
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