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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

You Are Paid What You Are Worth

Published August 28, 2009 8:24 PM by Glen McDaniel

I was speaking to a client the other day and he kept complaining about how underpaid he is. He resisted every exercise I suggested to list his strengths, competencies and value to his company. "I am very well qualified, I do a good job, I work very hard; so why can't they recognize that?" he asked.

His problem is really not that unique. Most people think they are not paid wages commensurate with their qualification, and the effort they expend. Entire groups of professionals like clinical laboratory practitioners rue the fact that others don't value them and employers don't pay them enough.

I have come to realize that employers must often be convinced of the worth or perceived value of an individual employee or group of employees. Bill Gates once said in a speech that the key to wealth is to position yourself as the most sought after person in your business, company or marketplace. He said people will pursue you and pay you handsomely if YOU convince them that you can solve their problems.

This could be the "problem" of selling, making money, taking care of patients, getting lab tests done- or whatever. Employers have a need and if they are convinced you fulfill that need, they pay you. If you fulfill that need uniquely or with the highest degree of competence, you get paid the most.

Motivational speaker Dr Robert Anthony is fond of saying, "Keep in mind if you are working for someone else, the only reason you are making the amount of money you make now is because you have not made yourself overqualified for that position by solving your company's immediate problems."

He believes that if you are not recognized and rewarded enough it is simply because you are not solving enough pressing problems for your employer or those who use your services.

Just think: what pressing problems can you solve at work? How can you make yourself more valuable by being the problem solver, instead of the problem?


I've been a MT/CLS/Laboratorian - whatever we're called this week for 46 years.  Yes, I'm as frustrated about pay as everyone else.  I was told at a former job to get my Master's degree and I would get a raise.  I did get the Masters, I didn't get the raise.  I've worked 22 different jobs, not because I was let go, but because I was a military wife.  Our profession has been dominated by women and there is that salary barrier.  I've known male lab directors who made far more than their female counterparts.  In the early '70's, MT's made more than nurses because their degree was recognized.  We do indeed need standards, licensure and unionization.  Letting a physician speak for us, no matter how great the physician, will not promote our profession.  We need to organize into one entity, forget our philosophical differences and become one.  I applaud the CLS/ASCP joining together.  Now let's do something about bringing AMT on board and we might have a chance to be able to speak up and let others know who we are and what we do and how much critical thinking we do every day.  Our name needs to be as recognized as Physical Therapist.  I'm not sure "Laboratorian" is going to get us there.  Unfortunately, I don't have a suggestion for something better and at least "Laboratorian" is one word and doesn't sound pretentious like "Clinical Laboratory Scientist" did.

Luella Hubert, Blood Bank - MT III, College Station Medical Center September 17, 2009 11:03 AM
College Station TX

I really hope with this DCLS program starting, they will start increasing standards in the clinical lab. Its pretty sad to see some of the people they hire without the proper credentials.

You cannot hire like that in another other ancillary profession, they have to create a national license with one standard degree.

Jimmy MT (ASCP) September 6, 2009 3:26 PM

Brad you hit the nail on the head, this profession has NO STANDARDS.

My hospital hires military trained without a certification. Those people are essentially the slaves to the lab director. So he puts them on every shift possible.

They have to create a standard degree and license. You create standards, pay will increase. If you have no standards, HR will pay whatever they want, thus students leaving for physical therapy, nursing, pharmacy, PA, NP.

My hospital also has to recruit overseas to fill the void for some positions? Dont you think if they pay well, students here in the US will be interested in the field?

I am sorry to say we never had a voice because we are under the pathologist WHO WILL NEVER ADVOCATE FOR THE LAB.

The nurses formed unions to increase pay and benefits, we have to do the same otherwise during this critical time of shortages, students will leave for better paying professions.

Here is a quote: "If you PAY, people will STAY".

The only way to increase pay is to create a standard degree and license nationally like all other ancillary fields, otherwise this field will forever be a "STEPPING STONE".

Mike MT (ASCP) September 1, 2009 2:28 PM

To clarify a statement I made in my earlier post on this topic, I also am not implying that ALL medical doctors are arrogant.  Many of them may just be inflexible in their opinions about the importance of us medical laboratory professionals and their beliefs that "monkeys" could run lab analyzers and analyze patient specimens.

I encourage any physicians out there who read this blog to contribute supporting statements here and to your hospitals' administrations regarding your appreciation for everything that we do.  

I always try to go above and beyond what is expected of me at this hospital's laboratory, as I know that is the first step in "selling myself" as a professional who plays an extremely important role in patient care despite being more "behind the scenes" than nurses or PAs.  

Recently, when Meditech went down between 11 PM and 11:45 PM, I hand-delivered a paper downtime report on a vaginal wet prep to an Emergency Department physician rather than just "calling" the result, as our specimen processor on night shift told me is usually done in similar situations.

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center August 30, 2009 11:55 PM
Danville VA

Funny, I very recently mentioned on Tiffany Landis's blog that it would be AWESOME if we could at least get a BACHELOR'S (four-year) degree established as the bare minimum requirement for certification and employment as a medical laboratory PROFESSIONAL.

I'm not saying that those with associate's degrees are insignificant, by a long shot.  They could still serve as valuable colleagues in the positions of laboratory assistants and/or specimen processors.  

The critical thinking involved in actually performing high-complexity tests, troubleshooting analyzers, and figuring out and resolving reasons for QC failures, however, needs to be appropriately recognized by designating these tasks as the responsibility of medical laboratory scientists holding bachelor's degrees.

Whether MDs control our profession (and regardless of their arrogant attitudes), it is important for bright, talented people NOT to leave the clinical laboratory because these professionals are the most likely to ensure high quality lab work, which is vital to patient safety and making sure every patient receives the best care possible.  That is what any of us would want if we or one of our friends/family members were hospitalized.

Also, that is why although I am in an extremely difficult financial situation right now, I do not intend to leave a job I love in order to pursue a more highly paid medical profession - even if laboratorians are not recognized monetarily as they should for another 20 years.

Interestingly, I interviewed at a hospital in South Boston, VA (considered an extremely economically depressed area of southern VA) about a year and a half ago where the starting salary for clinical lab scientists is about $21 or $22/hour -  about the same as large academic medical centers in Vermont and New Hampshire!  That tells me that all hope is NOT lost in convincing hospital administrators that our job is valuable and important enough in patient care to warrant higher compensation rates.  If this job is important and rewarding to you enough for non-monetary reasons, DON'T GIVE UP on it!

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center August 30, 2009 11:38 PM
Danville VA


You have made some very good points. I am always a little sad, even if empathetic, when bright minds leave the profession out of disillusionment.

There are several things that give a profession perceived value, and help to garner more respect and pay. The professions you mention have recognized and capitalized on these realities in various ways.

First, I am convinced, is licensure. If "anyone" can legally practice a profession, why spend all that time, effort and money to get qualified? As an employer, why pay degreed professionals high dollar when you can legally hire less qualified people and pay them much less?

Another is entry to the profession. Pharmacy, nursing and physical therapy have all DELIBERATELY limited entry to the profession as a tactic of not just attracting the brightest and the best, but also manipulating the supply and demand equation. Low supply drives up demand; that's basic economics.

It's true, the PharmD also adds cache to the pharmacy profession. But a professional degree is not as important as public sentiment and having a license. For example, many nursing programs still offer only an associate degree, but they still carry weight. Nurses arehighly regarded by the public and require a license to practice, that's the difference. They are therefore paid more.

The last thing affecting perceived worth is the willingness to be active and vocal in the wider organization  and with patients.

Ever been to a pharmcy and therapeutic (P&T) commitee meeting and hear how authoratively the pharmacist speaks? Doctors defer to them. Pharmacists counsel patients and control the dosing of antibiotics and anticoagulants. Can you even imagine the same thing with a CLS now? But, why, isnt that so? That's what I want us to contemplate.

I just think we all can do something to raise our perceived value. Part of  that is holding our professional organizations accountable. But ultimatley each individual laboratorian can raise his/her worth and can help to change the mind of their employer and health care colleagues.

Glen McDaniel August 29, 2009 1:50 PM
Atlanta GA

What you are paid also deals with standards. For example, pharmacy now is a pharmD, hence the 50/hour salary.

Our profession MT/CLS, has no standards. You have MLT's that can do the same job with a two year AS degree, how on earth would you think our salaries would increase?

If there was a standard degree and certification like most other ancillary fields <pharmacy, physical therapy> employers would be forced to pay well.  Pharmacy and PT have a standard degree, and a national license to work.

There are so many people leaving the laboratory b/c of low pay, no standards, and the control of the MD. I am one that wants to leave the field for pharmacy.

They keep saying there will be a shortage of lab techs, there will always be a shortage b/c the pay is terrible, no respect, no standard degree, no license, MD influence.

The pharmacy schools I am applying to each have 50-100 slots and about 3000 applicants, dont you think most of the applicants know about the MT/CLS field? They know there is no future in this, and the pay is terrible.

I am trying to get out as fast as possible, like the rest of my class mates that graduated 3 years ago. I am sorry to say this field will forever be a "stepping stone" till they create standards and increase pay so students want to STAY in the field.

Brad BS, MT (ASCP) CLS (NCA) August 28, 2009 11:13 PM

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