Why the laboratory technician shortage is worse now and how to lessen the sting
By Bridgette Hudak | October 4, 2021
Not a new problem for Laboratories
This new wave of COVID era employee shortage sweeping the United States is nothing new for the laboratory profession. From forensic science to clinical diagnostic, every laboratory industry has felt the staffing shortage sting over the years in one way or another. News of this crisis began showing-up as early September of 2000 when CAP Today magazine began reporting on the looming technician shortfall. Again in 2015, the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) raised flags that the number of laboratory technician vacancies was starting to surpass the number of recent graduates entering the workforce.
Why does it seem worse now?
If workforce availability has been trending downward in the laboratory industry for years, why does it seem worse now? In short, laboratories are currently facing the perfect storm for a rapid decline in personnel resource availability.
The rate of new professionals entering the workforce is at an all-time low. According to the National Library of Medicine, enrollment in laboratory science programs has dropped 50 percent since 1980, and the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) cites the number of lab science educational programs in the United States has decreased by seven percent since 2000.
Not only is there a dwindling amount of new laboratory scientists entering the profession, but employee retention rates are also dropping. CNBC reports 55 percent of American workers are looking to change jobs and career paths in the next year. Also, the lab industry is facing the issue of an aging workforce. Data USA cites the average age of a laboratory scientist is around 41.2. The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) notes retirement rates for laboratory technicians is up to 19.4 percent.
The effects of the narrowing talent pool are exacerbated by the increase in demand for laboratory services and testing that is not slowing down anytime soon. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the demand for laboratory professionals will rise by an average of seven percent by 2030.
The current social climate in the United States feeds into this demand. According to WJTV in Jackson, Mississippi, the state’s medical examiner office processes on average 400 drug cases a month and is up to at least one homicide a day leading to a significant backlog shared between two medical examiners and a lean support staff. Reports are going unfinished and evidence testing is having to be prioritized by law enforcement because the forensics team simply does not have the bandwidth to process all of the requisitions that come in.
The current health crisis hasn’t helped the issue either as medical laboratory staff are pushed to the brink. More and more tests are being submitted for COVID on top of the already overwhelming quantity of diagnostic tests being submitted for other conditions due to the growth in the 65 and older community. This further adds to this test demand as the increase for clinical diagnostic services grows.
How can we lessen the sting?
Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy resolution to the complex staffing shortage issue. There are many factors that go into solving this crisis, and it may be years before true gains are seen.
So, what can we do in the mean time?
While not a complete replacement for skilled professionals, technology and automation can help lessen the sting of the staffing shortage. In this resource crisis, you need a laboratory management solution you can count on. LabLynx can help you automate administrative tasks and free up staff time for stronger operational efficiency.
Here are few places where LabLynx can help fill the gaps:
1. Data Entry
Our ELab LIMS helps streamline data entry and reduce the possibility of transcription errors as we directly integrate with almost every instrument, offering data sharing in real time.
2. Client Portals
Minimizing the need for distracting phone calls, our myLabCare client portals optimize communication between your lab and the client. Clients can get report progress updates in real time and receive a digital copy of the report as soon as your lab sends it out.
myLabCare client portals also make test requisitions easier. Clients can submit tests to your lab through dynamic, easy to use forms. The information submitted immediately goes into the LIMS, reducing the need for manual entry while also ensuring you get the information you need.
3. Billing Management
With LabLynx ELab LIMS, we can integrate most billing platforms for efficient data sharing, allowing swifter payment collection for your lab. We also interface with EHR/EMR systems to assist with insurance billing.
4. Result Approval by Batching
No longer do you have to approve each test result individually, line-by-line. With LabLynx ELab LIMS, you can bulk review and approve test results from a comprehensive summary view.
5. Inventory Management
Keep track of on-hand inventory quantity directly within your LIMS. LabLynx ELab LIMS allows you to cycle-count inventory quantity, set par levels for each item and get alerts when inventory nears reorder level.
6. Calibration and Maintenance Schedules
Track maintenance and calibration history with ease directly within the LIMS. Know when maintenance was performed last, schedule when it is due next and receive alerts when it’s time to perform the maintenance.
For more information on industry related topics or to find out how LabLynx can support you during this staffing shortage, sign up for our newsletter below or click here to reach out to a member of our team.