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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

How to Survive a Layoff

Published September 5, 2009 5:58 PM by Glen McDaniel
We are told that the recession is easing, but there are many people who are still feeling the squeeze. Some economists describe this phase as a "job - less recovery" and even in healthcare, lay offs and downsizing are still occurring.

Some employers have reduced work hours (for example, employees working 32 hours per week, instead of 40).

I am constantly asked, "What can I do to avoid or minimize a layoff?" While there is no magic formula to avoid the axe, there are definite strategies to increase your chances of flying under the radar and -if all else fails- to minimize the effects of being downsized.

1. Be indispensable.  No one is immune from the axe, but the more valuable you prove yourself to be, the lesser the likelihood of being the first to go. I bet you are already overwhelmed, but I am telling you to take on even more work. Managers especially need help with special projects like gathering information for reports, preparing for CAP inspections, collating data and the like.

Volunteer to work extra hours (that's more money for you as well), volunteer to take over cleaning up the store room, reorganizing the bulletin board and tackling all those things that need to be done, but no one wants to do them. Another way to show your value and commitment is to identify opportunities for improvement in some process.  Identifying ways to save money or reduce waste are also valuable feathers in your cap.

2. Don't have the "It won't happen to me" mentality. Be realistic. Do not be pessimistic and constantly stressed about the prospect of losing your job, but keep your options open and your resume fresh and ready, just in case. Continue to network and find out what's available in the local community. If you have the time, you might even want to get a PRN job. Again, this gives you extra money, plus gets you in the door. If it becomes necessary, the transition to that new employer will be easier.

3. Put some cash away for a rainy day. As difficult as it might be, get into the habit of putting some money aside from every pay check. Where can you find the money? You might have to cut out specialty coffees, try packing a lunch rather than buying lunch from the cafeteria or restaurant every day.  One friend of mine puts away a dollar every time he "breaks" a ten dollar bill. Another writes a check to his joint account with his wife (both signatures required for withdrawal) as soon as he is paid.

Financial planners advise that one should have 6 months salary saved up in case of emergencies or unexpected job loss. More conservative experts say with the increased difficulty getting a new job, you are better off if you have saved the equivalent of 8 months salary.

4. Minimize debt. Now is not the time to increase your debt. Try to pay down debt since credit card companies are raising fees, sometimes arbitrarily. If you become unemployed or under-employed, you might be caught in the spiral of paying the minimum due-or even less.  Only major essentials that are absolutely necessary - or small charges that you will pay off quickly- should be placed on credit. Luxuries and "just-nice-to-haves" are best postponed right now.

5. Be proactive. Start sending your resume out now. You don't have to be out of a job to search the classifieds and post your resume on the job boards.  It can't hurt to have it out there. It's OK to even attend a practice interview or 2. Even if you don't think you'll be terminated soon. Think of it as your back up 'just in case" plan. Your emergency parachute, so to speak.

6. Know that you'll be alright. When a colleague of mine was laid off he found his true passion. He was a CFO but had always liked cooking.  He started a catering business out of his home preparing ready to eat meals for his network in the industry. His speciality is complete heat and serve meals for the busy individual or family. But he now caters everything from weddings to parties and has employed his oldest daughter as his first employee.

You are not your job; you have transferable skills that can be used in many ways by people who are looking for what you have to offer. Having the attitude now, that you have skills, ambition and resilience, makes you feel less stressed now. That mindset will prove invaluable if you ever find yourself downsized or laid off.


I start my new job on Monday, November 9 - at the hospital in Bluefield, WV where I completed my very first night shift job (and second contract/travel assignment through Medical Staffing Network) between late January 2008 and late April 2008!

I'll get trained in new procedures at BRMC's newly remodeled laboratory on day shift this month, then start working second shift in more working nights...HALLELUJAH!!!

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Bluefield Regional Medical Center November 4, 2009 5:43 PM
Bluefield WV


That's good to hear. Keep us posted about that job and good luck!


Glen McDaniel October 29, 2009 9:59 PM

Here's yet another "last one hired/first one gone" horror story for all of you: I was informed at 7:00 this morning that my position "has been eliminated" due to "adverse business conditions" at the hospital that employed me for one year, or some such BS.  At least I get to stay home and watch CSI: New York tonight. :P

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist/Microbiology/Blood Bank - Medical Laboratory Science, (unemployed) October 14, 2009 10:11 PM
Danville VA

I forgot to mention in the comment I just posted that if you don't mind working the dreaded NIGHTS (and busting your butt for seven consecutive ten-hour shifts), a seven-on/seven-off schedule would allow a parent to spend more time with his/her child(ren) than an old-fashioned five-day/week schedule. (20 work days out of a 30- or 31-day month with 5 days/week; only 14 per month with 7 on/7 off.)

Two out of the three assignments I worked were night positions, involving either 7 on/7 off or 8 on/6 off.  (The first one, in Indiana, was day shift!) :)

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center September 18, 2009 5:26 AM
Danville VA

Working traveling jobs through temporary agencies can GREATLY help one out financially. The position I worked in Bluefield, WV through Medical Staffing Network was a nice 90-minute drive north of Winston Salem, NC, where my daughter lives.  No worries about rent, utilities, groceries, or transportation (you get either a rental car or weekly car allowance) because they're all paid for tax-free for up to a year by your employing agency, should you like a facility enough to stay there longer than the typical three months.  Aureus Medical Group even paid for about 40 channels of cable and high-speed Internet during my assignment in Texas (summer '08)!

I personally am SO glad I have not had to stick ANYONE during this past year at the hospital where I am currently employed (permanently this time).  That's one blessing that I perhaps forgot to count in my previous comment.

I guess all of us need to PRAY that American society may wake up soon and start compensating people according to the contributions they make that benefit society and SAVE LIVES, rather than according to how "famous" they are.  

Medical laboratory professionals should be looked at as role models for children, teenagers, and college students.  How is that EVER going to happen when our career field is perceived as paying nowhere near enough to support a family with the dramatically increased cost of living pretty much anywhere in our lovely country?!

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center September 18, 2009 5:20 AM
Danville VA

Shania: I empathisize with your situation and realize how stressful it must be for you. I never want to minimize someone else's experience or suggest that solutions are always easy and simplistic.

I dont have enough details to offer specific suggestions, but I have some general possibilities you may consider.

1. Use the skills you already have, Try applying everywhere (and I mean "everywhere") for a job as an MT, realizing it may be on the night shift or some odd combination of shifts. Many labs are hiring PRN staff to fill in the "odd slots".  Have you thought about non-hospital places like doctor's offices or reference labs? You have phlebotomy skills, you might be able to do that temporarily, or even ongoing as part of  a larger strategy to increase your income. Years ago I knew a CLS who did phlebotomy 4am to 8am as her extra job when she was off from the hospital 2 days a week.

2. Look outside. You said you are a single mother, and so might find it difficult to move, but I get ads and emails from staffing agencies almost daily, advertising fro traveling or contract techs. I know a few people who have been lucky enough to be contracted with an agency as a tech in (or very close) to their own hometown. Sometimes these positions go from temp to perm as well.

3. Do something else temporarily. We define ourselves by our profession a lot, but we do have transferable skills. Even a  job in retail or teaching or receptionist might be better than being totally unemployed right now.

4. Use this as an inpetus to follow your dream. My initial post mentions my friend the CFO who used a devastating layoff as an impetus for him to pursue a dream and start his own business. This takes money and I dont know your situation, but it certainly is a possibility. It has been done.

Good luck, drop me a line if you think I can help in any way; and please keep us all posted.

Glen McDaniel September 13, 2009 6:12 PM

I was laid off from my job at a small hospital suddenly and withot warning. I was told as the most junior person I am last hired and first fired. They did pay me 2 weeks PTO. That's like one pay check.

I am a single mom and actually started in the lab as a phlebotomist, left to have children and then became tech by had work basically on my own after my divorce.

It is not as easy as people think or as you guys make it sound.

Shania MT (AMT) September 13, 2009 5:10 PM


The hospital I mentioned is maybe 15 miles from where I work, so I have friends there as well.

My friend showed me the letter from the CEO and he just said the hospital revenue is way down, so they have to cut cost in several ways. One way is no cost of living raise this year, merit raise for the top 20% only and no further accrual of PTO effective immediately . He said a bunch of other stuff and ended by saying something like they will continue to reevaluate the situation, and they really value their employees but have to amke hard business decisions  blah blah.

The kicker was he said basically that employees should appreciate the fact they took these steps rather than lay people off. He was basically saying "be grateful you even have  a job."

My friend has a sickly child. She will soon use up the PTO she has and then what??

So in many ways I feel blessed.

Jasmine CLS(NCA), MT (ASCP) September 9, 2009 9:00 PM
Atlanta GA

Stephanie: My brother makes about $12/hour in retail and argues with me when I say sports figures  do NOT deserve the millions of dollars they get. His simple (and illogical) explanation is that they serve the greater society.

That drives me crazy! It is true that we get used to the millions of dollars they should get and fork out $40 or whatever to go see a game. We are happy paying a CLS $18/hour. But in the scheme of things who would you want around if your life was in  the balance?

As a society we have to start paying people for what value they provide to society. Sports are a nice pasttime and help us to relax, but they are not vital for the survival of society.

I also think that if w ecan afford to pay one human being  $10million because he can run fast, w ecan afford to pay a hardworking clinical lab scientist $25/hour. Come on now!

Jonathan CLS(NCA) September 8, 2009 9:24 PM
Atlanta GA

A high school friend of mine and I are having a spirited discussion on Facebook...he just remarked that "capitalism is great for SOME people," and that just SET ME OFF!

I then wrote, "For the filthy rich bankers who don't (CARE) that someone earning $15 or $16/hour could save their life by performing testing to ensure a safe blood transfusion if they were in a car accident or God knows what else happened to them and they ended up in a hospital, of course!!!"

My friend replied, "Or the person making $12/hr to take X-rays. Its our way of life, unless we as voters begin to use democracy and our Bill of Rights the way our forefathers intended."

Me again: "Is it going to take an even worse recession than the one we're in now for Americans to finally straighten out their priorities rather than blindly believing that financial people, athletes, and celebrities deserve more $ than they could ever know what to do with in one person's lifetime?!!!"

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center September 8, 2009 9:01 PM
Danville VA

I am financially stressed out like most people about my only 35 hours/week since the beginning of July with absolutely NO exceptions.  We haven't had nearly as many people "call out" as Jasmine's hospital lab in Atlanta has, so the last overtime I got was toward the end of June when I worked an exhausting (of course) 2nd/3rd sixteen-hour shift.  I think our poor lab director and/or technical specialists may be sentenced to a date with a firing squad should anyone get even TEN MINUTES of overtime at our hospital.  The Hematology and Chemistry TSs both agreed that I had to leave early at the end of two recent shifts because I had to deal with Blood Bank situations and stay that measly amount of time over for two of my earlier night shifts in that work week.

I have to count my blessings, though.  We're getting back to my favorite colder time of year in which people get sick and provide more business to the hospital (God willing) and my colleagues are much more likely to either call in sick or "unable to leave their iced-over driveway" out in the sticks of southern VA.  Although I'm not mean and do not deliberately wish those types of misfortune on other people, I will be grateful for hopefully getting full-time pay and a few overtime opportunities again when that type of stuff inevitably happens.  (My colleagues, especially one older man who works Hem/BB 2nd shift, definitely know that I'm the go-to person to cover for them if they can't or don't feel like working a shift here or there!) :)

More blessings to count -

1) the disguised one of two transmissions failing in my car (which I paid off six months ago) within 1.5 years, which has led to my moving much closer to work and walking.  This saves me extremely important $ in gas/car maintenance/insurance, is great for the environment, and has enabled me to lose 25 pounds since last fall when I started working here in Danville!

2) At least the company that owns my employer has not gotten the ugly idea into their collective heads to freeze PTO. (Is this permanent, or have the powers that be at the Atlanta hospital you mentioned just not notified their employees about a specific time frame for that nonsense, Jasmine?)

3) Although I had to wait nine months after my original intended January 2008 start date to actually start working at DRMC due to a VERY last-minute hiring freeze on their part (enacted after I drug-screened in early Jan. '08!), I have worked with some great positive people in this facility for nearly ONE YEAR now.  After some other difficult experiences, I know how EXTREMELY fortunate I am to not only "have a job," but to have a job I love doing with people I look forward to seeing and working with at the beginning and end of my seven consecutive night shifts! :)

Stephanie Mathis, MLS(ASCP), Generalist - Medical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center September 7, 2009 9:17 AM
Danville VA

Glen you are correct.

I work second shift as a generalist and they have been cutting me down do 32 hours for the past 2 weeks. I dont know if I should look for a new job, or stay in this current situation b/c other hospitals will be doing the same.

I think with the time of cutbacks the applicant will increase and they will start looking for the BEST qualified applicant, rather than someone withouth a certification.

Aaron MT (ASCP) September 6, 2009 5:37 PM

Glen you hit the nail on the head. At work even nurses have been cut.  In med tech school we were told everyone needs healthcare so the profession is safe. But the crazy economy is affecting everyone.  Some nurses and therapists at my hospital were told to work  three 12 hour shits (36 hours a week). They still get benefits and are full time but no more guaranteed 40 hours.

We now pay for parking that used to be free. Our only free lot is like half a mile away and always full. The ones close to the hospital are all pid now.

Another hospital in town have frozen all PTO hours so you work without earning any more time off. You can use what you have only if it is approved, and you wont gain any more. They also increased health insurance premiums, so every body's pay check is automatically less.

In the lab we have not been cut back yet, but there is a freeze on hiring and sometimes if someone calls out we just work short.

I work day shift and every 3rd weekend  in the lab. I volunteer to work every chance I get and ended up working the last 3 weekends straight because people called out or something. I am dead tired but my paycheck looks better than before all the crazy cutbacks.I try to put aside the extra money I make from overtime. I also carpool with a girlfriend sometimes. If she drives 3 days, I drive 2 days and the next week we switch, so we eboth save gas and parking.

My fellow workers know to ask me if they cant work and even my supervisor thanked me for being always there. So the lab benefits and I benefit. As Glen says we really can take advantage of these difficult times by agreeing to help out more and being more careful with our money.

Jasmine T., MT (ASCP), CLS (NCA) September 6, 2009 2:21 PM
Atlanta GA

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