Why There is a Personnel Shortage
There are many reasons for the personnel shortage in clinical lab science. Not the least of which are low pay (compared to lesser educated health care providers), high stress, terrible work hours and little recognition.
I have dealt with root causes and strategies elsewhere and in many settings, but I just read the results of a survey that made me stop and think. In a Workforce Survey published in Modern Healthcare magazine, they examined the results of asking nurses directly why they think there is a nursing shortage.
Not surprisingly, in order of importance were the following
Poor salary and benefits
More career options for women now available
Faculty shortage- not enough teachers available for all qualified applicants
Negative perception of the actual work environment
Nursing not perceived as a respected career
Nursing not seen as a rewarding career
I suspect the reasons would be similar for clinical laboratorians except for 2 interesting observations. First, the numbers have decreased-signaling improvement- over the years e.g. in 2002 58% of nurses though the salaries and benefits for nurses were poor, compared to only 32% of nurses in 2008. In 2002, 38% of nurses saw the hours as undesirable, compared to only 26% in 2008. Negative perception of the work environment decreased from 29% in 2002 to only 15% in 2008.
So these findings suggest progress is being made in nursing. Is the same thing occurring in clinical lab science?
The second difference is that nurses identified that there are not enough educators to accommodate the numbers of qualified applicants to nursing schools each year. The fine print explained that educators with advanced degrees felt the pay for educators is not attractive enough. With more teachers, existing programs would admit more students and some new programs might even open.
I suspect that for CLS, schools are closing due to lack of funding and other reasons such as less interest in entering a profession with low pay, little recognition and limited autonomy. To the educators out there: are you having huge influxes of qualified applicants each year, but you cannot accommodate them due to an insufficient numbers of teachers in your program? To those whose programs have closed: did you close largely because of not enough staff, or for other reasons?
While the reasons for a shortage of laboratorians might mirror the traditional reasons for a nursing shortage, it appears that nursing has started addressing the core issues. In fact, there is such a renewed interest in nursing that current nursing programs cannot accommodate all the qualified applicants.