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Navigating Staffing Shortages

By Edward Dooling, CEO, Vanguard Healthcare Staffing


Shortages of skilled laboratory technical staff have been an issue in recent years because of several factors. Some issues include the declining number of accredited education programs and students attending them, increased demands on the workforce, and growing vacancy rates. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were approximately 335,500 Clinical Laboratory Technologist and technician jobs in the U.S. in 2020. Around 47% of these jobs were in hospital settings, 20% in medical and diagnostic laboratories, 9% in physician offices, 5% in schools and universities, and 4% in outpatient care centers. From 2020-2030 the job outlook for Clinical Laboratory Technologists is predicted to grow by 11% (faster than the average 8%).


Several solutions can be implemented to combat these staffing concerns. First, laboratory opportunities must be made aware to students at an early age. Next, employees desire to feel a sense of value in the workplace. It is important to consider employees’ wants and needs to make their workspace the best it can be. Lastly, it is crucial that laboratories remain up to date with the latest technological advances. It will save labs time and money – both extremely valuable in today’s market.


So, what can we do to raise awareness of technical laboratory opportunities and recruit key technical positions?

● Partner with medical technology and medical laboratory technician schools to recruit graduates

● Leverage social media

● Post on the laboratory or health system website job boards

● Partner with professional organizations like CLMA, ASCP, AMT, and others

● Referrals from current employees

● Attend industry conferences


COVID-19 has made it difficult for students to participate in clinical rotations on site. Many sites shut down their rotations in order to avoid exposure. As a result, the pipeline of new medical technologists, medical laboratory technicians, and phlebotomists entering the workforce has been disrupted.


Due to the decline in qualified laboratory candidates, it is imperative to analyze and improve your workforce retention rate. In order to do this, we must understand what employees want. According to a LinkedIn survey answered by 333 laboratory professionals, 50% of respondents revealed that a larger salary is of the utmost importance to them in their lab careers. Following that, 35% stated a work-life balance is most important, 9% require a flexible work schedule, and 6% desire a higher ranked title. These are just a few of the demands laboratory employees are seeking in today’s job force.


Most employees today are looking for a good work-life balance, compensation and benefits, culture, effective management, challenging work, and flexible work arrangements. To help improve workforce recruitment and retention, we encourage laboratories to promote professional development and job satisfaction. This can be done by providing financial incentives and considering factors such as flexible work schedules, benefits, regular pay increases, tuition assistance, and sign-on bonuses.


Today, laboratories are offering salaries and incentives that have never been seen before. In the Bay Area and San Diego, clients are paying salaries between $150,000-$180,000 with sign-on bonuses over $20,000. Additionally, clients are giving recruiting firms extra incentive bonuses on top of the recruiting contract fee for finding high-quality laboratory technologists.


With the continual technological advances created in today’s modern world, it is essential that laboratories remain up to date with the industry’s latest machinery. In a clinical lab study, a laboratory decreased its staff by 3 positions and implemented automated technology. In doing so, productivity increased by 38%. Additionally, the cost per test decreased from $0.79 to $0.15 per test. Staff was then further decreased by 24% and again productivity increased by nearly 58%. There was an overall decrease in turnaround time by 1 full day and a reduction in labor costs by $232,650 a year, leading to a total of a 12.55% increase in 1 year for the lab financially (Mokoginta & Sjaaf, 2019). Automation is the future of our laboratory industry, and it is imperative that labs keep up with today’s advancements in order to save time and money.


As laboratorians continue to face headwinds with laboratory technical staff shortages, we need to be creative in building a pipeline of talent, understand what is most important to our people, and build programs around their needs. It is important to work together to address the laboratory staffing shortage crisis.


If you need assistance in filling any of your technical positions please contact Ed Dooling, CEO of Vanguard Healthcare Staffing at ed.dooling@vanguardhcstaffing.com

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