The Secret to Combating Staff Shortages

This week, NSH celebrates National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, a week dedicated to honoring the important role of all individuals working in a laboratory environment.

To specifically highlight the role of histologists in the lab, NSH interviewed histology laboratory supervisors from across the country, in NSH’s new podcast series, Histology Careers: Job Seeking in the Lab.

Though all of our participating laboratories came from different parts of the country, and specialized in different areas within histology, over the course of the interviews, we found some commonalities.

Katina Williams Stewart touches on one right off the bat, in the series’ first episode. “We do have a high turnover rate, it’s hard to keep histotechs”, she says of her lab at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. The sentiment is echoed through the next few episodes as well. In episode two, Janet McKnight of ACL Laboratories in Wisconsin confirms,

“As like many facilities around the country, we’re dealing with retirements and staff shortages”.

This situation may be all too familiar to you in your own lab. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of medical laboratory technologists and technicians is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026. Though this is good news for histotechs, some labs have found it hard to keep up with the growing shortage of qualified employees.

ACL Laboratories, and a few of the other labs we talked to however, have managed to find a secret weapon that has helped them handle their staffing shortages… their own histology school. The ACL School of Histology provides HT/HTL training at all three of ACL’s histology labs. McKnight says,

“We graduate 2-4 students each year and they help feed our staff… its really our success of staying afloat in this market”.

ACL Laboratories is not the only lab in our series that has recognized the importance of partnering with a histology program. Though not affiliated with the Yale New Haven Health System, in episode three, Angela McNabola, describes her lab’s relationship with nearby Goodwin College in Connecticut saying,

“Goodwin College offers a histology program here in Connecticut, and we take on average 2-3 students a year. They spend 3-4 months in my department, 2 days a week, and I’ve hired many of those students.”

Meanwhile, the labs that do not currently have schools to pull from, such as Hopkins, are starting to recognize the benefits of opening their own programs. Williams Stewart says, “The Hartford Program, that we used to get a lot of our employees from has changed a bit, so we’re not getting as many students from there anymore. We are looking at hopefully being able to do something with a school of our own that will bring us in more staff members”. Even the University of Texas, which recruits from the local community college in Houston, is now looking at opening their own PA school as well.

So the good news this Lab Week? It looks like our labs are ready to meet the growing demand, taking matters into their own hands, to educate the next generation of laboratory professionals and help end their staffing shortages.

Supervisors such as Williams Stewart are optimistic about the future, encouraging listeners, “Go to school and become a histotech! We need you! It’s a really great field to work in, and the reward of helping save lives is so overwhelming”.

Happy Laboratory Professionals Week to all of our histotechs who are out there saving lives! Stay tuned for our next post later this week, where we discuss some of the differences between the labs we interviewed.

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