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Ms. Brown

Forbes Recognizes Lab Professional Jobs Are Tough to Fill

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Every day, histotechnologist Lena Spencer, HTL(ASCP), juggles the demands of multiple pathologists at a large medical laboratory in Louisville, Ky., while working with smaller tissue samples, tight time constraints, fewer staff, and more responsibilities.

“There is no room for failure because you are dealing with a patient’s life,” says Ms. Spencer, Senior Histotechnologist at Norton Healthcare and a member of the ASCP Board of Certification (BOC) Board of Governors (BOG).

“ASCP’s partnership with CGI may provide a framework for a new way to train students and, ultimately, provide qualified laboratory professionals to fill vacant positions.”
—Karen Brown, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, Vice Chair, ASCP BOC BOG

The medical laboratory professional is included in a recent Forbes.com article titled, “The 10 Hardest Jobs to Fill in 2013” at No. 7. With the U.S. healthcare system undergoing a major transition, leaders in the healthcare industry are working overtime to maximize efficiency. Budgets are in flux in every major hospital and laboratory system nationwide. Reduced staff sizes mean everyone from laboratory staff to administrators are all assuming new responsibilities.

Healthcare systems are also having a difficult time filling vacant positions in medical laboratories. One histotechnologist position at Norton Healthcare has gone unfilled for 18 months, Ms. Spencer says.

Ms. Spencer

With so few training programs available, many people are unaware of the medical laboratory profession, according to Walter Oliveira, MLS(ASCP)CMSI, Immediate Past Chair of the ASCP BOC BOG and Laboratory Manager at the University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Va.  

Through advocacy, ASCP is improving the visibility for the lab profession with initiatives that include support for STEM programs, expansion and modernization of traditional curricula, and new products such as Lab Management University. Also, traditional advocacy is more important than ever as ASCP works to ensure laboratory medicine is recognized by policymakers as crucial to patient care.

ASCP’s highly successful Career Ambassador program, which is sponsored by Roche, encourages ASCP members to visit local elementary and high schools to discuss careers in laboratory medicine. ASCP’s partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) is another example of ASCP’s proactive approach to address the workforce shortage by increasing the number of graduates each year on three campuses of the State University of New York.

Mr. Oliveira

It is difficult to attract students to a profession that is so hidden and not recognized for its contributions to health care that are made daily,” says Karen Brown, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, Vice Chair of the ASCP BOC BOG and Program Director of Medical Laboratory Science at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. “The medical laboratory is hidden because, other than phlebotomists, laboratory professionals generally have no (or limited) contact with the patient.

“Meanwhile, laboratory training programs are expensive to maintain, and ASCP’s partnership with CGI may provide a framework for a new way to train students and, ultimately, provide qualified laboratory professionals to fill vacant positions.” 

Mr. Oliveira applauded ASCP for its initiatives to address the workforce shortage. “I see the collaborative work being spearheaded by Dr. Holladay and the Board of Directors at ASCP, along with Patricia Tanabe and the ASCP Board of Certification, and know we are moving in the right direction,” he says.  


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