The American Society for Clinical Pathology 2020 Vacancy Survey of Medical Laboratories in the United States

Edna Garcia, MPH; Iman Kundu, MPH; Melissa Kelly, PhD; Ryan Soles, MS

Disclosures

Am J Clin Pathol. 2022;157(6):874-889. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Objectives: To determine the extent and distribution of workforce shortages within the nation's medical laboratories.

Methods: The survey was conducted through collaboration between the American Society for Clinical Pathology Institute for Science, Technology, and Public Policy in Washington, DC, and the Evaluation, Measurement, and Assessment Department and Board of Certification in Chicago, IL. Data were collected via an internet survey distributed to individuals who were able to report on staffing and certifications for their laboratories.

Results: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic disrupted the staffing of clinical laboratories and the stream of incoming graduates entering the workforce. Results show decreased vacancy rates for the majority of laboratory positions across all departments surveyed. The overall anticipated retirement rates continue to decline, which suggests that the field has already lost personnel with vast amounts of experience.

Conclusions: Addressing the current and future needs of the laboratory workforce requires a collective effort by numerous groups of stakeholders at all levels, including the laboratory employers, laboratory training programs, health care executives/hospital administrators, and professional organizations. The time is now to address the future shortage of laboratory professionals and to create a resilient clinical laboratory professional workforce.

Introduction

Since the emergence of a novel coronavirus in late 2019, "the spread of [severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2] SARS-CoV-2 impacted nearly every aspect of society worldwide."[1] According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "the [coronavirus disease 2019] COVID-19 pandemic is a formidable global public health challenge."[1] The pandemic forced the laboratory workforce into the spotlight.[2,3] Across the country, laboratory professionals continue to work tirelessly to develop innovative testing methods and perform complex diagnostic tests for COVID-19, often in addition to routine workloads.[3] The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) 2020 Vacancy Survey report includes a snapshot of how laboratories across the country were affected by the pandemic and the strategies they used to maintain lab operations.

The ASCP has conducted its Vacancy Survey to determine the extent and distribution of workforce shortages within the nation's medical laboratories for 33 years. Since its inception, this confidential survey has been administered every 2 years and has served as the primary source of information about staffing of laboratories for academic, government, and industry labor analysts. Results from past surveys show that laboratory medicine is a rapidly evolving field, and the survey has evolved in response to changes within the profession.

Each administration of the Vacancy Survey also represents an opportunity to improve its methodology for collecting current relevant data while maximizing survey participation. New questions were added to the 2020 survey to examine some of the factors affecting vacancy rates. The ASCP continues to gather questions, comments, and suggestions from our members regarding the profession, with the goal of addressing them through this informative survey.

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