Groundbreaking Study by ASCP and University of Washington Addresses Center for Health Workforce Studies Proposes Innovative Strategies to Laboratory Workforce Shortage


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“Clinical lab professionals serve critical roles in our health systems. These can be excellent career opportunities, but we need to ensure that these opportunities are known and accessible for all individuals,” says Bianca Frogner, PhD, Director of the UW CHWS.

The clinical laboratory workforce that underpins the U.S. healthcare system is under siege. As the providers of critical information to patient and medical providers to diagnose, treat, and manage disease, the number of laboratory professionals in the workforce is dwindling as baby boomers retire and accredited programs close. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this crisis.

To reverse this trend, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), in partnership with the University of Washington Center for Health Workforce Studies (UW CHWS) conducted a groundbreaking new study, Clinical Laboratory Workforce: Understanding the Challenges to Meeting Current and Future Needs. The results of the study propose innovative strategies, such as introducing careers in the medical laboratory to students as young as elementary school, while also working to build a more diverse and inclusive laboratory workforce. The study was supported by a generous grant by the Siemens Healthineers Fund of the Siemens Foundation.

“The shortage of medical laboratory professionals is not new but the COVID-19 pandemic put health systems to the test because there were not enough laboratory staff to fill key positions,” said Edna Garcia, MPH, ASCP Director of Scientific Engagement. “ASCP is very pleased to collaborate with the University of Washington Center for Health Workforce Studies and the Siemens Foundation to examine the barriers preventing more people from entering this profession and to develop entirely new approaches to solve this issue.”

The areas of the laboratory that were examined include histotechnicians, medical laboratory assistants, medical laboratory technicians, phlebotomists, histotechnologists and medical laboratory scientists. Key recommendations include:

Improving visibility of the profession

  •     Introduce careers in the clinical laboratory science at the elementary level and provide tuition support, stipends or scholarships.
  •     Offer incentives to laboratory employees who attend recruitment and awareness-building activities for the profession.
  •     Investigate program models that leverage funding partnerships to create education and training opportunities.
  •     Promote laboratory jobs on campuses and in professional groups, network with educational groups and employers, and support education programs and clinical training.
  •     Encourage employer-provided clinical training sites and employment resources for students in clinical laboratory programs.


Improving workforce recruitment and retention

  •     Provide financial incentives to encourage professional development and job satisfaction, and considering factors such as flexible schedules, benefits, tuition incentives, and sign-on bonuses.
  •     Provide opportunities for career growth through tier levels, increases in pay, and elevated titles.
  •     Encourage professionals to work at the highest skill level within their scope of practice.
  •     Examine opportunities for on-the-job training.

Promoting diversity and inclusion in the laboratory

  •     Encourage diversity in academic recruitment by aligning efforts across the institution and partnering with STEM programs to recruit students from underrepresented groups, developing a clearinghouse of scholarships, improving data collection to better understand trends in diversity among students, and recruiting more men, the non-dominant gender in this field.
  •     Urge employers to develop recruitment strategies and actionable items, expand mentorship and diversity training programs to retain laboratory staff from underrepresented groups, amplify promising efforts and articulate and measure the benefits of having a diverse workforce.

“Clinical lab professionals serve critical roles in our health systems as highlighted during this pandemic. These can be excellent career opportunities, but we need to ensure that these opportunities are known and accessible for all individuals, and that we support career progression to ensure diversity across the skill spectrum,” says Bianca Frogner, PhD, Director of the UW CHWS.

About ASCP

Founded in 1922 in Chicago, ASCP is a medical professional society with more than 100,000 member board-certified anatomic and clinical pathologists, pathology residents and fellows, laboratory professionals, and students. ASCP provides excellence in education, certification, and advocacy on behalf of patients, pathologists, and laboratory professionals. To learn more, visit http://www.ascp.org. Follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ascp_chicago and connect with us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ASCP.Chicago.

About the University of Washington Center for Health Workforce Studies

The University of Washington Center for Health Workforce Studies at the (UW CHWS) conducts research to elevate the importance of workers in the delivery of health care in policy discussion. UW CHWS was established in 1998 with funding from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). It is based in the Research Section of the Department of Family Medicine, part of the University of Washington School of Medicine. For more information: https://familymedicine.uw.edu/chws. Follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/uwchws and connect with us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/uwchws.

About the Siemens Foundation

The Siemens Foundation has invested more than $130 million in the United States to advance equitable workforce development and education initiatives in science, technology, engineering and math. Its mission is inspired by the culture of innovation, research and continuous learning that is the hallmark of Siemens’ companies. The Foundation is committed to economic, social and racial justice for all in the United States, and together the programs at the Siemens Foundation are narrowing the opportunity gap for young people in the U.S. and igniting and sustaining today’s STEM workforce and tomorrow’s scientists and engineers. 

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