Return to Generalists a Mixed Blessing
In recent years, I have noticed a return to the use of generalists even in larger laboratories. When I was just a "baby CLS," everyone started out as a generalist in all but the biggest laboratories. Many aspired and longed for the day when they would have earned their stripes enough to be able to specialize.
In fact, in my CLS training in Canada's largest children's hospital, even histology was prominent among my rotation as a generalist.
Now, it seems the shortage of laboratorians has made lab directors see cross training as a way to ensure staffing flexibility: laboratorians can be rotated from department to department based on the particular need. They feel no one should have the luxury of being well-staffed while another department is suffering. Techs should be pulled like chess pawns to wherever the work is. Makes sense on paper, doesn't it?
The feedback I am getting from laboratorians, especially boomers, is that they feel used and ill-prepared for this new trend, which they see as simply for the convenience of management. I had an enlightening moment with one lady I met at a meeting in San Diego.
She has a Masters degree and has worked in chemistry for 16 years, but has been told that in the next 3 months, she must be retrained and will rotate into hematology and bloodbank. She thinks this "drastic disruptive rotation" (her words) should be restricted to new grads who want and need the expertise.
The bulk of the work in any department should be performed by the long-term experienced specialties in that area: people who actually like the specialty, are competent in that area and who feel committed to working in that area.
So it seems while this new trend toward generalization/cross training makes sense operationally and financially, it can create resentment, poor morale, stress and the unexpected result of semi-competent laboratorians in all departments. Now, who benefits from that?