Pathologists and clinical laboratory managers can tap into this highly skilled pool of medical lab technicians as servicemen and women reenter the U.S. workforce
Returning veterans who are experienced medical lab technicians are having trouble finding employers that recognize and credit their military training and experience. Clinical laboratories now actively recruiting lab technicians will want to learn more about the availability of these qualified candidates in their communities.
One medical laboratory company already partners with a Department of Defense (DoD) program to help match skilled veteran jobseekers with private sector employers. That is American Esoteric Laboratories, a division of Sonic Healthcare USA. The existence of this program means that pathologists and clinical laboratory managers may be overlooking a ready source of highly skilled laboratory workers.
Combat Medics and Military Lab Technicians
Combat medics are hindered in the job market for an interesting reason. Often the military does not fully document their skills, noted Bloomberg News in a story that discusses this situation. Adding to the problem, state licensing laws are inconsistent and don’t account for armed-forces job experience.
Consequently, veterans are often unable to prove their ability to civilian employers. In turn, civilian employers are unable to translate skills and experience that veterans acquire during military service to civilian job requirements.
Helping Medical Laboratories Fill Vacancies with Military Lab Techs
David Smalley, Ph. D., is President of Memphis, Tennessee-based American Esoteric Laboratories. He has taken on a mission to help service members find employment with those clinical laboratories seeking to fill positions. Smalley is well suited for the job. He retired last year from the Army Reserve as a Brigadier General and served as the Assistant Surgeon General for the Army in one of his assignments.
In a recent interview with DarkDaily, Smalley described the unemployment plight of medically trained soldiers—including lab technicians—returning from deployment. While on active duty, he travelled across the country to visit army reserve medical units.
“What got my attention was an operating room tech in Minnesota,” Smalley told DarkDaily. “He was deployed to Afghanistan early on and spent one year there. A couple of years later, he was deployed to Iraq.
“When he returned home, he was sorely disappointed when he sought employment at a local hospital,” continued Smalley. “The recruiter told him he was not eligible for employment at the hospital because he lacked the necessary credentials. This was in spite of extensive medical training, plus clinical experience gained in a combat setting. He had assisted in over 200 traumas, as well as more routine procedures, such as appendectomies and gallbladder surgeries.”
Veteran ‘Retraining’ Wastes Millions in Federally funded Education
Military lab technicians train at the Medical Education and Training Campus (METC) in San Antonio, Texas. “METC is one of the world’s largest medical education facilities,” stated Amber Phipps, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at AEL. “The METC has over 50 medical training programs and graduates about 21,000 enlisted servicemen and women a year.” Phipps is a Captain in the Army Reserves and served as Smalley’s executive officer.
“With clinical laboratories struggling to staff technical and other significant positions, it’s a sad thing to see these skilled workers stuck in basic jobs,” observed Smalley, noting that thet have a higher rate of unemployment compared to the civilian population.
To overcome their lack of credentials, many veterans use federal benefits to pay for civilian schooling in skills they’ve already mastered. “Not optimizing the training of returning veterans is an expensive lost opportunity,” Phipps told DarkDaily.
“We literally waste millions of tax dollars requiring someone to attend training they have already completed,” declared U.S. Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, in the Bloomberg story. “[This money] could be spent on more advanced qualifications.”
A Call to Action for Clinical Laboratories
Smalley and Phipps are passionate about their mission to help service members obtain meaningful and gainful employment. “What we’re trying to do is to get veterans exposure to medical laboratories and other healthcare facilities for employment to use their medical and leadership skills,” stated Phipps. “Reaching out to military programs that help veterans transition into civilian jobs is a great opportunity for clinical laboratory managers to fill vacancies. The laboratory technicians graduate from a certified program that meets CLIA requirements.”
Phipps further recommended that interested medical laboratory recruiters:
- acquire familiarity with how the military trains laboratory technicians;
- explore ways to assist military medical technicians to attain skills and credentials that are transferable to the civilian healthcare system;
- become familiar with how to post job opportunities on Hero2Hired (H2H); and,
- contact local Reserve and National Guard units to offer job fairs, provide employment seminars, or host military tours in the clinical laboratory’s facilities.
DarkDaily asked what barriers medical laboratory recruiters might face when trying to hire returning veterans. “Most labs are not familiar with hiring opportunities or the additional skills that service members bring,” Phipps responded. “Additionally, employers may need assistance to help translate military experience to civilian requirements. For help, they can contact a local military recruiter or a Reserve/National Guard unit to establish communication and assess options for employment.”
Military Trains Thousands of Enlisted Healthcare Professionals Each Year
Few clinical laboratory managers and pathologists are aware that the military is training approximately 550 laboratory technicians each year at the Medical Education and Training Campus (METC) in San Antonio, Texas. As these military lab technicians complete their tour of service and prepare to return to civilian life, they represent talent and experience that would benefit hospital labs and independent clinical labs in communities all across the United States.
—Pamela Scherer McLeod