The pipette is a key tool in the lab. The typical lab technician spends an…
The shortage of qualified lab technicians is nothing new.
In 2015, Kimberly Scott highlighted the laboratory workforce shortage and the demand for new responses to resolve the shortfall. Now, nearly a decade later, in the wake of the pandemic, “the longtime problem” has only worsened.
“The Great Resignation”, also known as, “The Big Quit”, has seen laboratory technicians voluntarily leave their roles in unprecedented numbers. Ian Cook, in his Harvard Business Review article, Who Is Driving the Great Resignation?, noted that resignation rates were most profound in industries where the COVID-19 pandemic led to remarkable levels of stress and intensity.
Significantly heavier workloads were the norm among laboratory professionals as were general feelings of being unappreciated and under-valued. While it’s true that some lab technicians may have already been working in poor environments, the pandemic likely exacerbated those issues and spurred those employees to quit their jobs.
Along with the “Great Resignation”, there are other contributing factors that have been largely ignored. In The Benefits of Lab Automation, we highlighted how the American Society of Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) noted that the ever-increasing challenge of maintaining sufficient high-quality lab technicians is the result of multiple factors:
- The ongoing increase in demand for services
- Vacancy rates exceed the number of graduates
- Increasing retirements across an aging workforce
- A reduction in the number of laboratory training programs
Why Should We Care?
The lab technician staffing shortage issue should concern us all. Consider the following points raised by Rodney Rohde in his article, Medical Lab Staffing Shortages Have Reached the Breaking Point:
- Lab technicians conduct 13 billion laboratory medicine tests on an annual basis
- Lab testing affects two-thirds of all medical decisions made by doctors
These facts highlight the danger of communities being understaffed and ill-equipped to deal with the ongoing demand for laboratory services.
What’s the Solution to the Lab Staffing Shortages?
There is no quick fix that can be applied across the board to resolve the staffing shortage. Rather, the problem requires a cocktail of remedies and actions. Responses might include actions taken by individual labs, as well as broader industry-wide approaches. Consider the following solutions:
- Flexible scheduling for staff
- Salary increases
- Signing-on bonuses
- Tuition reimbursement
- On-the-job training & cross-functional training
- Establishing clearly defined career paths
- Providing internship opportunities
- Improving the visibility of the role played by laboratory technicians at career expos and training institutes. The ASCLS noted that due to a simple lack of awareness of the role, laboratories are missing out on readily available talent.
These are not the only approaches to implement, but it is clear that to resolve the ongoing staffing issue, laboratories have to take action rather than adopt a ‘hope for the best’ policy.
Lab Automation Can Resolve Understaffing Issues
A comprehensive approach is needed to address the staffing shortages and one key aspect of that is lab automation. More often than not, laboratory technicians – with good degrees – are reduced to carrying out mundane (yet necessary) manual tasks that don’t particularly inspire or leverage their talent, nor their true abilities. While every role may have boring aspects, if tedious tasks form the bulk of one’s day, then people may leave in search of greater fulfillment. Lab automation can handle dull, repetitive, and onerous tasks, so your talented employees can focus on more meaningful, stimulating, and value-adding work.
Lab automation also operates at speeds humans can’t attain, and nor do machines tire. With the increasing demand for lab testing, lab automation allows for greater throughput processing as well as enhanced safety and fewer errors (in turn allowing for better reproducibility). Within that framework, labs can also benefit from subsequent cost savings.
How Can MESLO Americas Help?
As your lab partner, we will listen to understand your needs and work with you to select the right lab automation for your lab. MESLO Americas welcomes queries from all laboratories looking to address their unique lab staffing shortages. Lab automation is accessible for all, irrespective of the size of your organization, with budget-friendly solutions.
Take your first step towards harnessing the benefits of lab automation, contact – MESLO Americas.