Funded by the CDC, the program hopes to alleviate personnel shortages in Baltimore area clinical labs while also producing a knowledge base for lab managers nationwide
Clinical laboratory managers struggling to fill vacant phlebotomy and accessioning positions will be interested to learn about a pilot program being conducted by the City of Baltimore and the University of Maryland School of Medicine to train people “for employment in hospital laboratories, phlebotomy draw sites, and reference laboratory processing centers,” according to The Elm, a publication of the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
The 14-week “Mayor’s Workforce Development Program” began on April 19 and will continue through the end of July. Participants meet twice a week for lectures and experience working with specimens in actual medical laboratories or in a “hybrid learning environment,” The Elm reported.
“I came up with the idea of doing cross-training for laboratory people and public health people in case there is another pandemic,” explained Lorraine Doucette in an exclusive interview with Dark Daily. Doucette, who is managing the pilot program, is an Assistant Professor and Medical Laboratory Science Program Director, Department of Medical and Research Technology, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“There is already a huge shortage of laboratory people, but an enormous amount left in droves during the pandemic because they got physically burned out. Some just could not do the work anymore because of things like carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress injuries,” she added.
“I’m confident that all 15 or 16 students who complete this workforce program will be employed within weeks of finishing as accessioners,” said Lorraine Doucette (above), Assistant Professor and Medical Laboratory Science Program Director, Department of Medical and Research Technology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, in an exclusive interview with Dark Daily. “This has been so successful. This is making a difference in people’s lives. This is changing them from being unemployed to actually having a career in a clinical laboratory. They love it. They are so proud of themselves.” (Photo copyright: LinkedIn.)
CDC Funding Part of National Program to ‘Enhance’ Clinical Lab Workforce
Doucette and her team met with people from the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED) to discuss a possible partnership. They were interested and Doucette eventually became a recipient of funding through a cooperative agreement with the federal Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC).
The collaboration is part of a CDC project titled, “Enhancing US Clinical Workforce Capacity.’ Doucette will receive a total of one million dollars over the course of three years to facilitate the program in stages.
“It is not necessarily an old-fashioned grant where they just gave me a pile of money,” Doucette told Dark Daily. “The CDC works with me constantly via reports and Zoom meetings.”
This CDC project is designed to both cross train clinical laboratory professionals in public health, clinical chemistry, microbiology, and hematology, as well as to train individuals in the workforce development program to become laboratory accessioners.
“They are going to be qualified to work as an accessioner in any local hospital,” Doucette noted. “The people who pick up the lab samples out of the tube system are the accessioners and there is a huge shortage of them also. We’re teaching them the basics so the more advanced lab personnel can perform the higher-level work.”
Students in the program learn all about lab safety and the proper handling of lab samples as well as proper data entry, professionalism, and how to communicate with medical and laboratory personnel. They work with urine and blood samples and fabricated spinal fluid samples.
“They are taught about the different tubes, what the anticoagulants are, what makes each tube unique, why you can’t mix samples, balancing a centrifuge, and how to properly put on and remove safety gear like lab coats, gloves, and goggles,” Doucette explained.
The Mayor’s Workforce Development Program is free for Baltimore residents looking for employment via the workforce office. The only requirements for enrolling are having a high school education and being fully vaccinated.
Phlebotomy and Additional Cross-training to Be Added
Doucette would eventually like to add a phlebotomy segment to future training sessions. “We would like to develop an additional partnership with BCCC (Baltimore City Community College) for the phlebotomy piece. That would definitely increase the people and the program’s marketability,” she said. “They could not only draw the blood, but they could also process the sample.”
After assessing the success of the current program and determining what did and did not work, there will be an additional training session held in the fall. Next year, there will be more sessions held for individuals in the workforce program and cross-training classes for current clinical laboratory professionals.
The strategy for the third year of the grant includes sharing the specifics of the program with medical laboratory professionals via the CDC’s free OneLab REACH platform. This portion includes the online delivery of documentation such as training sheets, lab exercises, Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, and videos used in both the accessioning and cross-training coursework.
“We’re going to do the OneLab REACH,” Doucette said. “I’m going to be putting it all online and marketing it all around the country in stages and increments. I will be going to a lot of professional society meetings and talking to lab managers to help them understand the concept of how this all benefits them.”
This unique collaboration between the City of Baltimore and University of Maryland School of Medicine, funded by the CDC, should help alleviate some of the clinical laboratory worker shortages that exist in the Baltimore area. Hopefully, the effort will result in additional knowledge, resources, and tools to assist medical lab managers across the country to recruit and retain talented, highly-skilled workers.