Are You Really Short Staffed?
In these days of real and impending staffing shortages, we have to be heard. Sharing press clippings about shortages, program closures and retirement predictions is a good way to set the smoke on the horizon. But it can still be hard to convince administration the laboratory can't be staffed on a dime. They may believe point-of-care testing, outsourcing or cross-training are the answers. When the bean counters ask, "Are you really
short staffed?," you need to have the facts.
According to a 2004 study published in the Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, wide variation in labor productivity and management span of control (the number of people per manager) contribute to a wide range of staffing levels in laboratories. There is no magic number of techs needed, in other words, to run a certain number of tests.
When considering staffing, the authors advise the following:
- compare to laboratories of a similar size (benchmarking);
- areas within the laboratory with variations in productivity may require attention (track productivity by specialty); and
- managers who supervise fewer numbers of people may indicate an opportunity to combine areas of responsibility (eliminate dead weight).
Aside from this, what will sell the idea to your administration that you simply need more people?
Don't wait for physicians to start complaining your laboratory is making too many errors. You don't want to hear the word "outsourcing." Your payroll and work statistics are invaluable: number of vacation denials, overtime as a percentage of total productive hours, number of missed breaks and lunches, and absenteeism are a few of the obvious ones. You can also plot number of tests performed per productive hour to see if your techs are doing more with less. It doesn't hurt to ask a consultant to assess your laboratory productivity, just to make sure your equipment and layout are suited to the workload.
When the question "Are you really short staffed?" is asked, have your answer ready.