to main content Surveyor Spotlight - Michael Veri | The Joint Commission
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Michael Veri has worked in laboratories for over 20 years. As an Army reservist he served eight years of active duty and two deployments. During his military service, he oversaw over 40 laboratories spanning 20 countries in the Middle East, including multiple active combat zones. This military and civilian lab experience informs his work as a Joint Commission Laboratory Surveyor, allowing him to think creatively about solutions and beyond standard practices.
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When not immersing himself in all things laboratory, Michael escapes to 20 acres of woods just outside of downtown Boston where he recharges with his wife (who is also a lab director) and two young children. Outside of work, Michael is passionate about Brazilian jiu-jitsu and is an avid chess player.

What led you to your current position at the Joint Commission?

In 2020, as an Army reservist, I was deployed by the military to what’s called U.S. CENTCOM — what most of us think of as the Middle East. I was put in charge of every laboratory in all of the Middle East, from Egypt all the way up to Israel and Jordan, which included a couple combat areas as well. All told, I managed 40 laboratories in 20 different countries for the Army, Air Force and Navy.

It was also a very good time from a professional conference perspective because conferences went virtual. That meant being in the Middle East didn’t stop me from speaking at the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) or the Clinical Laboratory Management Association (CLMA) conferences. I also had the opportunity to do a webinar series on laboratory management.

If you look at an MBA or MHA degree, nobody with those is ever going to focus on laboratory medicine. They might focus on hospitals in general, but not the lab. There were so many lessons that I wish I had learned before becoming a lab director that would have made me more effective and better at what I was doing. And so, managing these 40 laboratories across the Middle East, I had this audience of soldiers who were trying to manage labs, oftentimes for the first time in their lives — and they were missing all this key knowledge.

As a result, I ended up hosting a webinar series. It was one episode a week — completely free — and wound up growing to an audience of about 1,300 attendees each week. Some were Joint Commission surveyors. And so they reached out to me and said, “You seem to love teaching. Have you ever thought about working for Joint Commission?” My first answer was “no,” but I explored it more and I got to talk to Barb Schwarzer, who was the Joint Commission Laboratory Field Director at the time. She’s been the best manager I’ve ever worked with in my life, and that just seems to be the culture and the people that Joint Commission breeds and it’s what led me into the role.

How has your experience directing laboratories for the military informed your role in a civilian environment?

Working in both military and civilian environments reminds me of what is possible. In the civilian sector, the lab is one of the most heavily regulated parts of a hospital in the U.S.. But in the military, especially in an overseas environment, a lot of times you have to do what’s necessary and there isn’t a regulatory body in the traditional sense. Basically, it’s “here are the rules, try to conform to them as best you can, but if combat operations say that you can’t, then deviate from that and do what you have to do to save lives.

Experiencing that approach affords me a unique outlook when I go into highly regimented, “this is the way we’ve always done it” civilian laboratories.

For example, I’ve been to facilities that only allow four-year med techs (MTs) to work in their laboratory. But with 15,000 lab techs leaving our field every year, staffing is a major issue. Every school in the country combined only produces 4,850 lab techs per year and only 1,400 of those are four-year degree MTs. So, when labs put themselves in the narrow box of “only four-year med techs can work in this laboratory,” good luck continuing to offer those services to your patients. You’re going to run out of staff.

So how do you convince people who have never tried different approaches? I can give them insights and say, “I realize you’ve always done it this way, but there is so much more outside of the narrow confines if you’re willing to explore your options.” Breaking some of those assumptions often starts with a simple conversation, and I feel like my military experience allows me to broach those topics.

What do you like most about working in a laboratory?

The best thing about lab and the best thing about the Army is if you’re bored with what you are doing today, it’s okay. Our field is so broad that tomorrow you could be doing something completely different.

As a lab tech, if you get bored with the core lab you can go over to microbiology, you can go over to the blood bank, you can get into quality, you can take leadership roles. No two days have to be the same, and I love the diversity in our field and all of the opportunities it affords us.

How is the Joint Commission survey unique and in what ways do you strive to provide value to the laboratories you visit?

When I come into a survey, I put a lot of forethought into the agenda, as do my peers. The thing is, that agenda isn’t set in stone. There are several things that I have to do during a survey, but I don’t actually care what order they get done in. It’s very fluid and very much a conversation with the organization. Asking questions such as, “What do you need? What’s going to work best for you? How do we work around the patient care that you’ve got going and the staffing that you’re dealing with?”

Some of the core pieces: There is going to be an HR component where we look at the competency files and the education files of your staff members. We’re going to look at patient tracers. For myself, I ask for the organization to provide several diagnoses that I know will lead to good questions, and follow patients throughout the two year survey that meet that specific criteria.

I also want to know: Are you doing something different and novel that I can learn from? Are you doing something where maybe you’re using an outdated resource and we should revisit that reference you’re using for that particular policy and procedure? And so whenever I see things out of the ordinary, that’s when my curiosity is peaked. That’s why I ask questions, not in an effort to “get” anybody, but in an effort to learn and exchange information.

Beyond that, the lab tour is always important. I try to connect to the staff. I close my tablet and go into the laboratory, and I just let laboratorians ask me questions for 30 minutes. When I was being inspected I would’ve killed for that opportunity. During that conversation I don’t take notes. I just answer questions. Occasionally I have to go find resources to answer their questions and I’ll bring that back to the staff.

,,Everybody comes together during a Joint Commission survey process, which means you get resources because they’re hearing firsthand what some of this stuff means. Lab does speak a very different language from the rest of the hospital. Having a surveyor there that can articulate things in a hospital-centered voice means that a larger audience is going to hear that and understand that … which is always a really good outcome,,

Michael Veri, MLS (ASCP), MS - Laboratory Surveyor - The Joint Commission

Are there any direct messages you want to give to your laboratory peers about the accreditation process?

At The Joint Commission, we do a lot of patient tracers. When I was on the receiving end of Joint Commission surveys, there’s always this temptation to not trust the survey process. The surveyor tells you to grab a random selection of tracers that meet the criteria. But as a director, I always pre-screened every one of those before I handed them to a surveyor. Please don’t do that. And I say that as somebody who did it my entire career.

For example, I was on a survey for a rather large organization where a patient had a hemoglobin at 4.6. They gave an emergency release unit of blood and the patient’s hemoglobin went up to 14. Obviously there was a problem. When we dove into it we discovered a chemistry tube that was rejected for saline contamination. We now know that the saline contamination reduced the hemoglobin of the CBC tube which led to an unnecessary transfusion.

Administration was so angry with this blood bank manager for giving us this tracer because it led to these findings. But this was a result of a communication issue stemming from a large organization with multiple departments that historically didn’t communicate well with one another. Yet, as a result of this tracer, we found the originating communication issue and we fixed it. In doing so, that vulnerability within the lab was fixed for all patients — forevermore. If we hadn’t discovered it, that same vulnerability would have been there the next day.

If lab directors pre-screen, they limit opportunities for dialogue that lead to improvement and patient betterment.

Don’t pre-screen everything. Trust the survey process.

I’m not there to get you. I’m actually more there to learn from you as well as teach. And whether you get two findings or 20 findings, you’re going to get accredited. Our goal isn’t to cause you problems or heartache. Our goal is for patient care to be better, which is the same goal you have.

Additionally, remember that I’m here to work with you. The more things that you shield or that you obscure, the less effective I’m going to be in my job and the less betterment we can give to your patients. I want to help you engage with your C-suite and with your nursing teams and to come together to improve patient care.

Be open and honest and tell me about the challenges because you’re not alone. Staffing is a challenge across the country. Regulatory compliance being seen as a cost center by your hospital, not getting the resources that you need — you’re not alone; it’s happening everywhere. I’ve seen solutions at other hospitals that can help you as well, so talk to me about those challenges because that’s the only way I’ll know how to gear my survey or gear the education so your facility is best positioned when I’m gone.

What’s the value of a Joint Commission accreditation for laboratories?

In the 20 years I’ve worked in labs, the biggest complaint labs have always had is the silos that develop — between the hospital and the lab, and between nursing and the lab. When both the hospital is Joint Commission accredited and the laboratories are Joint Commission accredited, everybody speaks the same language. It gives hospital employees and laboratorians so much in common. It invites different departments to talk to each other and work together, sharing insights in preparation for Joint Commission visits and beyond. By initiating that dialogue those barriers start to break down, and so having common goals acts as a stepping stone.
,,When the hospital is Joint Commission accredited and the laboratories are Joint Commission accredited, everybody is speaking the same language.,,

Michael Veri, MLS (ASCP), MS - Laboratory Surveyor - The Joint Commission

Michael Veri headshot.

Michael Veri

Laboratory Surveyor, The Joint Commission

Michael Veri, MLS (ASCP), MS, is a laboratory surveyor with The Joint Commission. He previously served the United States military overseas as the laboratory advisor to more than 40 labs in over 20 countries. Michael has been a laboratory surveyor with The Joint Commission since 2021.

Michael has a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of Louisville and a Master of Science in chemistry from the University of South Florida. He is currently working toward his MBA at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

Michael’s personal hobbies include chess, Brazilian jiu jitsu and spending time outdoors with his wife and children.