cmlso-penny-smalley.html

CMLSO Profile

Profile of a CMLSO

  1. Who are you?  Ms. Penny Smalley, R.N., CMLSO

    I am a Registered Nurse, working in the field of laser education and safety for the past 30 years.  I have three children, and three grandchildren, a husband, a wonderful German shepherd, and as a result of my career, I am lucky enough to have friends all over the world.

  1. How long have you worked with lasers?

    I started my laser work by establishing one of the first laser services (GYN) in Chicago.  I found that the lack of resources and training for nurses working with lasers was frustrating and since this was pre-email, I began a telephone and letter writing campaign to the laser company we were working with, asking for help.  When it was finally determined that I was asking for help that did not exist in the industry, the laser company asked me to join them and help develop the program.  Three other nurses were hired, and together, we worked to develop the curriculum and format for in-service, which even then included laser physics, tissue interactions, applications and patient management, and of course, safety.  We did not have standards, recommended practices, or any other formal guidelines, so we based our training on those risks and hazards we could determine from our discussions with many investigators, technical experts, and clinicians, and then we gave it all a nursing framework.

    I have been self employed since 1986, after deciding that as a nurse, I wanted to educate my peers and work independently of any commercial influences.  I joined the ANSI Accredited Standards Committee Z136 in 1988 as the only nurse who was involved, and gradually, was able to bring a number of my colleagues into the committees.  I was one of the founders of the nursing division of ASLMS, and focused my efforts on getting nursing professionals to be included in all of the major organizations and committees, in order to  ensure that our clinical and administrative needs were considered, as more and more standards, regulations, laser organizations, and teaching programs, began to flourish.

    I have been very fortunate that my work has taken me all over the US, and around the world. 

Becoming an LSO

  1. How did you become the LSO?

    I have to say that I was an LSO before it became a designated role. 

  1. What do you feel are the challenges of today’s LSO?

    Since my consultation work began, I have trained many LSOs in a variety of programs and practice settings.  I believe that the two most critical challenges of today’s LSO are: ensuring compliance in an environment of confusing and rapidly proliferating rules, regulations, and standards, at the local, professional, state and federal levels; and managing laser services with diminishing resources and support.  Given the reality of budget cuts and restructure in health care facilities, during a time of increasing demands and options in technologies, coupled with minimal availability of education and resources, LSOs, as well as most other healthcare professionals of all levels of responsibility, are forced to do more with less.

    As technology continues to change our practice environments, LSOs must keep their own education current, in order to manage the technical, clinical, and risk management aspects of the role.  It is also critical that more clinical LSOs become involved in the development of standards, professional recommendations, and state regulations.  In doing this, we can work together, so that we never lose sight of the fact that our job is to advocate for the safety of our patients.

    My motto is:  Staff safety first – ensuring patient safety always!!


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with the Laser Institute of America (LIA), a California nonprofit corporation. The mission
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