Workforce Shortages: Keynote Lecture

Last month at NSH’s Symposium Convention our speakers dove into a ton of relevant topics and the keynote lectures were no exception. Sunday’s keynote featured not just one speaker, but a panel of experts. Representatives from NSH, ASCP, and ASCLS graced the stage to talk about a very relatable problem in the histology community: workforce shortages. We all recognize the common woes. There aren’t enough techs, so you’re swamped. Your lab has hired someone off the street to step in and do the job. There seems to be little recognition (or pay increase) for being certified. You’re not alone. Our panel confirms the data is seeing similar trends.

ASCP annually conducts surveys studying workforce shortages, certification trends, and vacancy across laboratory professions. Histology and anatomic pathology ranked lowest among laboratory professions for certification requirements. ASCP’s qualitative analysis from their most recent survey points to the workforce shortage as a driving factor behind lack of certification requirements when hiring in these disciplines. Hiring managers, who may or may not have a background in technical laboratory processes, hire who they can get and though priority is placed on hiring credentialed techs, there is little compensation for certification. One reason why this is allowed to happen is because histology is not recognized by CLIA and therefore not held to the standards of some of the other disciplines, such as blood banking, that ranked among the highest for hiring certified personnel in the ASCP survey.

Over the last two years NSH, alongside allies such as the ASCP and ASCLS, have been pushing for greater recognition for histology under CLIA. Dr. Luis Chiriboga, the moderator of Sunday’s panel, and Clare Thornton, NSH’s Membership Committee Chair, have been spearheading this campaign, which began as a response to a request for information by CMS related to personnel requirements. Since then, Clare and Luis have attended meetings of CLIAC (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Advisory Committee) and recommended that histology should be recognized under CLIA.

We now have a seat at the table where these discussions are taking place, but we need to strengthen our voice by having more of our histology community involved. As our panels stressed throughout their lecture, this fight for recognition of histology is a marathon not a sprint. We will be monitoring the progress of CLIAC’s recommendations to make sure steps continue to be taken and histology does not fall by the wayside. If you would like to get involved, consider joining us in March at ASCLS’s Legislative Symposium in Washington, DC where histologists can meet to learn more about the issues affecting the profession, and pass on their concerns to their elected officials.

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