ASCP Tackles Future of Laboratory Workforce Using Innovative Strategies
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
The Building a Laboratory Workforce to Meet the Future Report, the culmination of a year-long study by the ASCP Task Force on the Laboratory Professionals Workforce, was unveiled to wide praise at ASCP 2013 Chicago.
“There was a lot of interest in the report. Many felt it would be useful when speaking to senior leaders at their health systems to educate them about the workforce shortage.”
— Lynnette Chakkaphak, MS, MT(ASCP)
“There was a lot of interest in the report,” says ASCP Board Member Lynnette Chakkaphak, MS, MT(ASCP), a longtime educator and laboratory director who led the presentation at the Annual Meeting. “Many felt it would be useful when speaking to senior leaders at their health systems to educate them about the workforce shortage.”
More than 60 people attended the presentation, which generated dynamic discussion about the complex issues surrounding the laboratory workforce. “We talked about how we collect that data for the ASCP Wage and Vacancy Surveys and how challenging that is,” says Andrea Bennett, MT(ASCP) MPH, Director of the ASCP Center for Public Policy and Chair of the Task Force. “They provided anecdotal information about what is going on in their work settings and offered suggestions on what data to collect. When we do the Vacancy Survey the next time around, we’ll try to address the issue of positions that have been eliminated, which appears to be pretty common.”
The Task Force report reviews and evaluates current data on all laboratory professions, identifies gaps, and makes recommendation for future data collection initiatives. It also reviews ASCP’s role in the workforce development and current initiatives, as well as how the Society might leverage its resources and standing among other related healthcare organizations, government, and the broader healthcare system to seek solutions.
“Currently, given all the uncertainty about how various inputs will change our practice, addressing the workforce issues becomes infinitely more complicated,” says ASCP President Steven Kroft, MD, FASCP, who served on the Task Force.
The report takes a multi-pronged approach to addressing the issue. Recommendations include promoting laboratory professionals as an integral part of the clinical care team; developing innovative educational programs; maintaining high standards for certification of lab professionals; and continuing to develop STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) outreach initiatives in communities.
“One thing about the lab professional pipeline is that the need tends to be fairly local,” says Dr. Kroft. “We can all learn from the examples of Minnesota, which developed a public-private partnership and identified a source of federal funding to invest in innovative programs using e-learning to expand access, which was highly effective in addressing the state’s demand for lab professionals.”
“Another issue is that we don’t know what constitutes a shortage of lab professionals,” he says. "If we go to policymakers, they will ask us to prove there is a shortage. We have a prime opportunity for doing health services research to determine what constitutes a shortage and the outcomes to measure it.”