Medical Lab Science is Still a Growth Career
this week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its report of job prospects
for the next ten years (actually between 2012 and 2022).
surprisingly, healthcare topped the list of attractive fields, projected to
grow at almost three percent, adding an estimated 5 million new workers- a
third of all new jobs. The report also
breaks down the statistics by occupational role.
Most of the overall
10.8 percent growth will occur, not surprisingly in service jobs like
healthcare as opposed to jobs that produce goods like manufacturing or
construction. The healthcare sector is further broken down by scope. It turns out that healthcare will be among the four major occupational groups that
are projected to grow more than 20 percent—nearly double the overall growth
from 2012 to 2022. But healthcare support occupations will surpass healthcare
practitioners and technical occupations (28.1 percent versus 21.5 percent. (See
Chart 2 and Table 6).
As we all already
know, in all areas of healthcare paraprofessionals will be in increasingly greater
demand and will be utilized more as the population ages and care needs
increase. Does that mean laboratory scientists will be replaced by laboratory
aides or technicians? No, that is very unlikely. That fear is as unfounded as
the perennial rumor that more instrumentation will eventually make medical lab
It does mean two
things, however. If paraprofessionals are to competently assume greater
responsibilities and represent the laboratory even more, we have to make sure
they are prepared to safely and effectively fulfil those roles. Phlebotomists might be trained as lab
assistants with expanded auxiliary roles. Customer service reps should be
taught scripting to answer common questions and trained on when to escalate
issues outside their scope. MLTs may be encouraged to become MLSs and assume
more responsibilities. Education and training should be seen as added value; as
should seeking national certification.
As roles shift across
the entire healthcare team, the needs of the laboratory's customers will also
change and we must be ready for the new challenge. Scientists should jump at the opportunity to interact
more with their peers outside the laboratory, instead of performing the more
“tasky” duties that are customary. There
can be more effective representation on decision making committees like the
Quality Council, Pharmacy, Nutrition and Therapeutics (PNT) committees and the
Long delayed projects
related to test utilization and provision of interpretive guidelines can be
pursued. Busy, overwhelmed clinicians
would welcome even the most basic phone
consultations, if they were available. There are best practices to be
established and research to provide hard data applicable to medical laboratory
science practice, much like other professions have done.
Many of us are on our
way out, possibly on the way to retirement. However it is heartening to know
that our profession will continue to grow.