How Hospital Lab Directors Fail Their Employees

How Hospital Lab Directors Fail Their Employees

EVERY NOW AND THEN I WANT TO TAKE some segment of the laboratory industry to task for things they ought to be doing. Today it will be hospital laboratory directors.

Virtually every hospital lab administrator in the United States will tell you that they are concerned about the job stability and welfare of their lab employees. Yet, in hospital lab after hospital lab, we hear news of radical restructuring and cost-cutting that painfully chops lab employees off the payroll.

It is my observation that many hospital lab administrators who profess concern about protecting their employees’ jobs, are actually guilty of inaction which directly leads to downsizing and a reduction in the number of laboratory employees. Why do I say this? Because hospital lab administrators have some power to prevent lay offs. The management strategy and required tools to accomplish this have been publicized in the lab industry trade press for ten years. A steady stream of hospital lab administrators continues to take the podium at various lab meetings to share their successes at making their own hospital labs “lay off proof.”

It’s a simple management strategy: take any hospital laboratory serving an inpatient population and figure out ways to increase the volume of specimens flowing into it. The most obvious source of specimens is from physician offices in the surrounding campus. Because these physicians admit patients to the hospital, most have a positive motive to support their community hospital.

If hospital laboratory administrators had been willing 1) to take some risk to sell an outreach program to administration; 2) to invest some personal initiative into creating a lab outreach program; and 3) to provide leadership for the laboratory to succeed in that effort, then it is my contention that a large number of hospital labs would not have endured sizeable staff lay offs during recent years. The reason is inarguable. More specimens allow unused capacity and existing staff to be more productive. It lowers the hospital’s average cost per test. Revenue from outreach specimens can also make the hospital lab a profit center.

Now that I have taken hospital laboratory administrators to task, I would like to challenge them. Look for successful examples of hospital laboratory outreach programs, study them and put the best management ideas to work in your own hospital laboratory! See if you can make your own hospital laboratory “lay off proof,” for all the right reasons!

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