Shining a Light on the Challenges Faced by Medical Laboratory Professionals: Insights from a Recent Study

Over the last couple of months, I have sat down with 20 fellow lab leaders to discuss problems with on-the-job topics. I will cover these specific topics in future articles but today I want to focus on this new study recently published by Angela Tomei Robinson MS MLS(ASCP)CM and Rodney E Rohde PHD SM(ASCP)CM SVCM MBCM, FACSC2. They conducted and wrote a comprehensive study that was published in Biomedical Journal of Scientific and Technical Research. The study is titled ‘Workforce in the Shadow of Healthcare –An Update on the Survival Status of Laboratory Medicine and Public Health’. The study can be accessed at the end of this article.

Retention is on the minds of all leaders. Medical laboratory leaders are concerned about the reduction of qualified Laboratory Scientists (MLS/CLS/MT) and Laboratory Technicians (MLT). The issue of shortages is layered. The solutions are complex and need to be attacked from every angle. The study highlights the severe shortage of medical laboratory workers, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite our crucial contribution to patient care, government legislation has denied us the right to Practice Profession Licensure, like nurses and other allied health practitioners. This lack of licensure impedes the establishment of standardized entry-level requirements, defined body of knowledge, and scope of practice across states. Additionally, attending accredited programs and seeking national board certification are not consistently mandated for lab staff across the US.

We work behind the scenes and face significant challenges that lead to burnout, stress, and feelings of alienation. The shortage poses risks to patient safety and quality of care. Solutions proposed include increasing awareness by reaching out to the C Suite to educate administration about the role lab plays in patient care. An emphasis on improving education and training is essential to stabilize labs and reduce turnover. The most important solution is advocating for legislative support for licensing. With the right to Practice Profession Licensure, Medical Laboratory professionals can gain the financial benefits and respect they deserve. The study highlights the importance of addressing these issues to ensure the quality and integrity of healthcare services.

The sentiments expressed by the lab leaders I surveyed mirrored those outlined in the study. During my investigation, I learned that numerous leaders have opted for retirement, transitioned to smaller clinical facilities, or assumed remote support roles to alleviate the pressures they faced in hospital lab environments. Staffing requirements within hospital labs have been lowered due to a lack of understanding by administration. As one respondent pointed out, many healthcare professionals underestimate the complexity of lab processes, believing that simply placing a sample in a bucket will yield accurate results on the other side.

There is a growing trend in healthcare leadership that prioritizes ‘any result’ over the time and resources required for obtaining the correct result. As a collective, our question is: why order tests if you don’t care about the result? Experienced leaders have opted out of their quality assurance duties due to burnout and fatigue. The consequences of misinformation, miscommunication, and interdepartmental misunderstandings could lead to disaster.

In conclusion, the challenges facing medical laboratory professionals are multifaceted and require concerted efforts from all stakeholders in the healthcare industry. The study conducted by Angela Tomei Robinson MS MLS(ASCP)CM and Rodney E Rohde PHD SM(ASCP)CM SVCM MBCM, FACSC sheds light on the critical issues surrounding workforce shortages and the lack of recognition for these vital professionals. As leaders in the field, it is incumbent upon us to advocate for change, raise awareness, and implement solutions to address these challenges. The future of healthcare quality and patient safety depends on our collective action. Let us work together to ensure that medical laboratory professionals receive the support, recognition, and resources they need to continue providing high-quality care to patients. The full study can be accessed at:


Citation: Angela Tomei Robinson MS MLS(ASCP)CM and Rodney E Rohde PHD SM(ASCP)CM SVCM MBCM, FACSC. Workforce in the Shadow of Healthcare–An Update on the Survival Status of Laboratory Medicine and Public Health. Biomed J Sci & Tech Res 54(5)-2024. BJSTR. MS.ID.008604.

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