"Lab Industry Trends"

Hospital Association Studies Nurse & Lab Staffing Issues

WIDESPREAD PUBLICITY about the nursing shortage is not coincidence. The American Hospital Association (AHA) is making “staffing relief” a primary reason why the current Congress should increase reimbursement and provide funding for training and recruiting healthcare workers.

A variety of studies have looked at nursing vacancies and changes to the total number of registered nurses in recent years. There is disagreement about whether or not these studies prove that a nationwide shortage of nurses currently exists.

To bolster its position, the AHA recently released its “AHA Special Workforce Survey.” It surveyed 715 hospitals and looked at vacancy rates for a variety of positions, including “laboratory technologists.”

Lab Tech Vacancy Rate

For the clinical lab industry, the AHA’s findings confirm that the shortage of medical technologists is both widespread and significant. Survey results indicate a vacancy rate of 12% for laboratory technologists in hospital settings.

This is higher than the vacancy rate for registered nurses, which was 11%. However, the top three vacancy rates reveal bigger problems in other areas besides laboratory and nursing. Vacancy rates were 21% for pharmacists, 18% for radiological technologists, and 18% for billers/coders.

Widespread Staff Shortages

The survey results seem to indicate that other areas of clinical services are undergoing the same staffing shortages as clinical laboratory and nursing. If true, this means more competition for training dollars and incentive programs.

However, it should be noted that nursing is the major staffing headache for hospital administrators. Of the 168,000 unfilled staff positions in the nation’snhospitals, 75% are for nurses.

The funding stakes in this battle are huge. The AHA is calling for the creation of a $12 billion grant program that would match hospitals and colleges as partners in boosting the numbers of students enrolled in healthcare professional programs.

This recent data sends two messages to the clinical laboratory industry. One, there is a widespread shortage of medical technologists, probably around 10% of the available positions nationally. Second, other clinical service areas in the hospital have significantly greater vacancy rates. Together, these facts mean the lab industry will have to compete for the dollars necessary to increase laboratory professional training programs.

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