Proposed regulation to limit rate increases during health crises gets pushback from staffing agencies and travel nurses who disagree with salary restrictions
Hospitals across the nation are seeking relief from skyrocketing costs due to increased demand for temporary workers—especially travel nurses. This has led organizations like the American Hospital Association (AHA) to step in and call for legislators to cap spiking salary rates. Many clinical laboratories report similar increases in salaries following the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 for medical technologists (MTs), clinical laboratory scientists (CLSs), histologists, and other skilled positions. This increase in salaries of lab scientists was mirrored by an even greater increase in the cost of travel MTs.
According to analysis conducted by Becker’s Hospital Review of hiring data from Vivian Health, an online job placement website for healthcare professionals, “Average weekly travel nurse pay climbed from $1,896 in January 2020 to $3,782 in December 2021, a 99.47% increase.”
A prior study by Kaufman Hall and Associates, LLC., found rates for temporary workers almost 500% higher than pre-pandemic times. While numbers are trending downward, it’s clear that rates are still high enough to cause alarm, KFF Health News reported.
“During the pandemic there were staffing companies who were making a lot of promises and not necessarily delivering,” Dave Dillon (above), VP of Public and Media Relations at Missouri Hospital Association, told KFF Health News. “It created an opportunity for both profiteering and for bad actors to be able to play in that space.” (Photo copyright: L.G. Patterson/Missouri Hospital Association.)
AHA Alleges Price Gouging
Demand for temporary healthcare workers surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, and, because supply was limited, salaries for temporary workers—such as travel nurses—soared as well. This dramatic increase in hospitals’ costs prompted the AHA in 2021 to send a letter to the Federal Trade Commission seeking relief for healthcare providers from what the organization called “anticompetitive pricing by nurse-staffing agencies.”
In January 2022, about 200 House members urged then White House COVID-19 Response Team Coordinator Jeffrey Zients “to investigate reports that nurse staffing agencies are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to increase their profits at the expense of patients and the hospitals that treat them,” an AHA new release noted.
In an AHA House Statement titled, “Pandemic Profiteers: Legislation to Stop Corporate Price Gouging,” the AHA wrote “Our concerns range from potential collusion to increased prices way beyond competitive levels and/or egregious price gouging and the impact these behaviors could have on efforts to care for patients and communities.”
Temporary nurses make up a large portion of staff nationwide with 1,760,111 employed nationally as of September, according to Zippia research. With some nurses commandeering $40,000 signing bonuses and pay rates up to $10,000 a week for ICU nurses during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the significant impact of these rate hikes cannot be ignored.
“We have received reports that the nurse staffing agencies are vastly inflating price by two, three, or more times pre-pandemic rates, and then taking 40% or more of the amount being charged to the hospitals for themselves as profits. This situation is urgent and reliance on temporary workers caused normal staffing costs to balloon in all areas of the country,” Representatives Peter Welch, D-VT, and Morgan Griffith, R-VA, wrote in the letter submitted by the AHA to House members.
States Take a Stand
But nothing was done at the federal level to cap rates for travel nurses, so hospital organizations in 14 states lobbied legislators to cap rates at the local level. However, this has proven to be problematic.
At this time, at least 14 states have proposed legislation that impose limits on what temp nursing services can charge and what stipulations they must follow during a crisis. Navigating this patchwork of state laws could be challenging for both hospitals and temporary nurses.
Some states are taking sterner measures, KFF Health News reported:
Missouri regulators proposed legislation that would allow felony charges to be brought against healthcare staffing agencies that raise prices during emergencies.
Texas lawmakers proposed legislation that would administer civil penalties against agency price-gouging—laws which the state does not have on the books at all—and also would allow fees up to $10,000 to be assessed per violation of the proposed law.
New York proposed amendments to legislation that would cap the amount temporary staffing agencies could charge.
Nurses, Staffing Agencies Tell Their Side
The implementation of new laws to protect hospitals from alleged temp agency price gouging presents new challenges. One issue is state-to-state competition.
“It might become difficult to hire travel nurses, and some states could face a lower-quality hiring pool during a national crises if the neighboring state doesn’t have strict measures,” Hannah Neprash, PhD, Assistant Professor, Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota, told KFF Health News.
And financial handcuffs may not sit well with staffing agencies that feel misunderstood by hospital organizations pushing for regulation. According to KFF Health News, “Typically about 75% of the price charged by a staffing agency to a healthcare facility goes to costs such as salary, payroll taxes, workers’ compensation programs, unemployment insurance, recruiting, training, certification, and credential verification, said Toby Malara, a Vice President at the American Staffing Association trade group.”
Malara added, “hospital executives have, ‘without understanding how a staffing firm works,’ wrongly assumed price gouging has been occurring. In fact, he said many of his trade group’s members reported decreased profits during the pandemic because of the high compensation nurses were able to command,” KFF Health News reported.
Not surprisingly, many nurses have also come out against government regulation of their wages.
“Imagine the government attempting to dictate how much a lawyer, electrician, or plumber would make in Missouri. This would never be allowed, yet this is exactly what’s happening right now to nurses,” Theresa Newbanks, FNP, a nurse practitioner who is affiliated with several hospitals in multiple states.
Creative Responses Required
Increases in both rates and legislation continue to spur creativity among hospitals needing to fill shifts, support staff, and prevent worker burnout.
The American Hospital Association December 2022 Task Force noted this in their “Creative Staffing Models” paper. The AHA cited telehealth visits, technical support, and working with non-traditional partners as beneficial ideas. These were also noted as meaningful ways to recruit and retain staff.
Other hospital systems have even created their own staffing agencies. Allegheny Health Network (AHN) developed a variety of systems where nurses can work a single weeklong assignment, multiple-week assignments, or transfer to other facilities, Kaiser Health News reported. While these staffing scenarios make up a small percentage of the hospital staff, it’s a worthwhile addition to increase options for nurses.
Staff turnover for RNs increased from 8.4% to 27.1% last year, as reported by the 2022 NSI National Healthcare Retention and RN Staffing Report. Finding solutions to staffing shortages—and consequently increased temporary nursing cost—is crucial because burnout is still a problem, just as it is in clinical laboratories and pathology groups.
It’s not just radiology. Gen Z residents will be matching in pathology and other specialties, and that means clinical laboratories should be ready to adapt their recruiting and training to Gen Z’s unique characteristics
It’s a big event in medical schools across the nation when it is time for residency programs to match residency candidates with first-year and second-year post-graduate training positions. But this year has a special twist because—for example in radiology—this is the first class of Generation Z (Gen Z) residency candidates to be matched with radiology residency programs.
In their abstract, the authors wrote, “This year, the radiology community will experience the beginning of a generational change by matching its first class of Generation Z residents. To best welcome and embrace the changing face of the radiology workforce, this Viewpoint highlights the values that this next generation will bring, how radiologists can improve the way they teach the next generation, and the positive impact that Generation Z will have on the specialty and the way radiologists care for patients.”
Members of Gen Z are now entering the workforce in large numbers. To recruit high-quality candidates from this generation, healthcare employers—including clinical laboratories and pathology practices—may have to adapt the way they interact with and train these individuals.
Gen Z is generally described as individuals who were born between 1995 and 2012. Also known as “Zoomers,” the demographic comprises approximately 25% of the current population of the United States. They are extremely diverse, tend to be very socially conscious, and can easily adapt to rapid changes in communications and education, according to the AJR paper.
Although the paper deals with radiology, this type of information can also be valuable to clinical laboratories as Gen Z pathologists are poised to enter clinical practice in growing numbers. This marks the beginning of the professional laboratory careers of Zoomers, while Millennials move up into higher levels of lab management, the oldest Gen Xers near retirement age, and Baby Boomers retire out of the profession.
“Gen Z employees bring unique values, expectations, and perspectives to their jobs,” said Paul McDonald (above), Senior Executive Director at staffing firm Robert Half in a news release. “They’ve grown up in economically turbulent times, and many of their characteristics and motivations reflect that.” Thus, clinical laboratories may have to develop methods for recruiting and training Gen Z staff that match the unique characteristics of Gen Z candidates. (Photo copyright: LinkedIn.)
Zoomers Like Digital and Artificial Intelligence Technology
One of the most unique aspects of Gen Z is that they have never lived in a world without the Internet and have little memory of life without smartphones. Zoomers grew up totally immersed in digital technology and tend to be comfortable using digital tools in their everyday life and in the workplace. They lean towards being very open to artificial intelligence (AI) and how it can assist humans in analysis and diagnostic methods.
“This group of professionals has grown up with technology available to them around the clock and is accustomed to constant learning,” said Paul McDonald, Senior Executive Director at staffing firm Robert Half in a news release. “Companies with a solid understanding of this generation’s values and preferences will be well prepared to create work environments that attract a new generation of employees and maximize their potential.”
According to the AJR paper, Zoomers learn best by doing, so employers should concentrate on interactive learning opportunities, such as simulations, virtual reality, and case-based methods for teaching the aspects of the job. They are likely to expect digital and blended resources as well as traditional approaches to learning their new job responsibilities.
The paper goes on to state that Gen Z members value diversity, equity, inclusivity, sustainability, civic engagement, and organizational transparency. Their social consciousness and diversity may yield a greater range of perspectives and problem-solving approaches which may bolster their sensitivity to patient-centered care.
“The oldest in Gen Z have already seen a recession and a war on terrorism. They’ve seen politics at its worst. And now they’ve seen a global pandemic and are about to see recession again,” said David Stillman, founder of GenGuru, a boutique management consulting firm that provides insights on how best to connect with Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z, in an interview with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “They are survivors,” he added.
According to the SHRM, “Stillman says Millennials, who preceded Generation Z, were coddled by their parents. He maintains that Generation Z’s parents were more truthful, telling their offspring, ‘You’re going to have a really tough time out there, you have to work super hard,’ which he says created ‘the most competitive generation in the workforce since the Baby Boomers.’”
Gen Z Wants More than a Paycheck, They Want Purpose
The American Journal of Roentgenology paper also states that Gen Z members grew up in a rapidly changing world and tend to be resilient, adaptable, and flexible. They have experienced and witnessed many stressors and navigate these issues by focusing on mental health and a meaningful work-life balance. With respect to a profession, they are searching for more than just a paycheck, and they want a purposeful career where they feel a sense of belonging.
Increase information sharing and transparency to help alleviate fear and anxiety.
Incentivize them by showing them clear paths to career progression.
Make sure they know how their individual contributions matter to the organization.
Motivate them by giving them room for autonomy and experimentation.
Provide specific and constructive feedback.
Harness community and in-person interactions to boost professional collaborations.
Prioritize wellness and mental health.
“Be prepared to spend time with them face to face,” McDonald stated. “They want to be mentored and coached. If you coach them, you’re going to retain them.”
Preparing to Attract Gen Z to Clinical Laboratories
As Generation Z comes of age, more of them will be working in the medical professions. Clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups would be well advised to prepare their businesses by adjusting leadership, adapting recruiting efforts, and shifting marketing to attract Zoomers and remain relevant and successful in the future.
Although sweeping statements about individual generations may be limiting, understanding their unique insights, values, and backgrounds can be helpful in the workplace. With a large amount of Gen Z workers now transitioning from college into careers, it will be beneficial for clinical laboratory managers to recognize their unique characteristics to recruit and maintain talented workers more effectively.
High demand for medical laboratory technicians that exists throughout the country motivates some colleges to create training programs to meet this need
Clinical laboratory technicians will be interested to learn that US News and World Report (USNWR) recently ranked their work the 17th Best Healthcare Support Job and 86th of 100 in the magazine’s list of Best Jobs in 2023. The position also ranked “average” in upward mobility and flexibility, but “above average” in stress level. This squares with Dark Daily’s previous reporting on high levels of stress clinical laboratories are still experiencing following the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
The median pay, according to USNWR, is $57,800/year and can be as high as $74,530/year. The best paying cities for clinical laboratory technicians are all in California: Redding, Napa, Merced, San Jose, and San Francisco. And the best paying states are New York ($72,500), Rhode Island ($70,580), Connecticut ($70,220), Oregon ($69,330), and California ($68,450).
The graphic above, taken from the US News and World Report’s list of “Best Healthcare Support Jobs in 2023,” illustrates how the base salary for clinical laboratory technicians has risen over the past 10 years. Projections are positive for earnings and availability of clinical laboratory positions continuing to grow around the nation. (Graphic copyright: US News and World Report.)
Clinical Laboratory Technician a Growing Profession
The US News and World Report’s definition of this job drew heavily on the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook for its description of the position “Clinical Laboratory Technician.” The Labor Department clearly defines the difference between a clinical laboratory “technician” and “technologist” and USNWR carried that over into its analysis.
Accordingly, USNWR described this job category by stating “Clinical laboratory technicians are responsible for a number of tasks, including examining body fluids and cells and matching blood for transfusions. The job requires the use of sophisticated laboratory equipment, such as microscopes and cell counters. With continued advancements in technology, lab work has become more analytical, so laboratory personnel should have excellent judgment skills. More complex procedures are reserved for clinical laboratory technologists, who must possess a bachelor’s degree. Technicians, who must hold at least an associate degree, often work under the supervision of technologists.”
Demand for clinical laboratory technicians spans the country and appears to be increasing.
The program is the result of a local hospital querying Trinity College about implementing just a program.
“It’s been about a year and a half now, getting it up and rolling,” Stephanie Tieso, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, Program Director Med Lab Sciences, Trinity College, told Quad-City Times. “I know both big hospital systems in the area are very excited about this coming on, and there’s definitely chatter in the lab community about this new program opening.”
Trinity’s program will be the only one of its kind within a 90-mile radius. The initial cohort will consist of 10 students. The Quad-City Times reports “Program majors will earn a Bachelor of Health Sciences degree and qualify to take the MLS certification exam upon program completion and graduation.”
The creation of this program at Trinity College of Nursing and Health Sciences is just one example of programs that could be needed all over the US in the coming years as demand for clinical laboratory workers grows.
Job Outlook Good but Burnout a Possibility
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook states, “About 25,600 openings for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.” However, the shortage may also be due to the well-reported worker burnout being experienced across the entire healthcare industry which was exacerbated by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
This ebrief follows the story of Susanna Bator, a former clinical laboratory technician with the Cleveland Clinic and with MetroHealth System in Cleveland, Ohio. Bator shared her story of working in various laboratories during the coronavirus pandemic in an essay she wrote for Daily Nurse titled, “The Hidden Healthcare Heroes: A Lab Tech’s Journey Through the Pandemic.” Bator’s essay is a personalized, human look at the strain clinical laboratory technicians were put under during the pandemic. Her story presents the quandary of how to keep these critical frontline healthcare workers from experiencing burnout and leaving the field.
“We techs were left unsupported and unmentored throughout the pandemic. No one cared if we were learning or growing in our job, and there was little encouragement for us to enter training or residency programs. We were just expendable foot soldiers: this is not a policy that leads to long-term job retention,” she wrote.
This validates US News and World Report’s statistic that the work of clinical laboratory technicians comes with an “above average” level of stress. For those who can handle it, however, the job has many benefits and provides multiple opportunities for growth.
But the burnout Bator and other techs encountered is very real. Hopefully more training programs like the one at Trinity College will become available to provide the learning and support lab techs need as we move into post-pandemic healthcare. As the US News and World Report article shows, clinical laboratory technicians are filling a critical need in the laboratory industry and new training programs will be instrumental to their success.
Staffing specialists advise medical laboratories to expect shortages to continue
Clinical laboratory and pathology group managers are keenly aware of the Great Resignation and how it has affected lab industry staffing and recruiting. Medical technologists (MTs) and clinical laboratory scientists (CLSs) are in particularly short supply and some experts do not see this critical shortage waning anytime soon.
In an exclusive interview with Dark Daily, Maggie Morrissey, Director of Recruiting and Staffing Services at Lighthouse Lab Services, explains the multi-faceted problem labs are facing meeting recruitment goals, and how understaffing can lead to bigger matters regarding morale and job satisfaction.
Based in Charlotte, N.C., Lighthouse Lab Services is a medical laboratory consulting and recruiting firm that employs 150 people and services more than 1,500 medical laboratory clients.
In July, Lighthouse released the results of its 2022 Survey on Wage and Morale Issues among Medical Laboratory Professionals. The collected data from 1,112 respondents found that only 27% indicated their clinical laboratories were adequately or well-staffed. Forty percent of respondents believe their labs were moderately understaffed while an additional 33% felt their labs were significantly understaffed.
The primary reasons, according to Lighthouse, for staffing shortages can be attributed to:
The number of schools offering medical technology programs has decreased.
People have been retiring at a higher rate than most industries.
It is difficult to become a medical technologist/clinical laboratory scientist.
There are hurdles to jump through to become a medical technologist.
Medical technology is not a well-known field.
“[Eastern Carolina University] told us they don’t have anyone graduating from the [medical technology] program this year because of COVID. There are all these issues exacerbating the problem,” said Maggie Morrissey (above), Director of Recruiting and Staffing Services at Lighthouse Lab Services, in an exclusive interview with Dark Daily. “Making it more attractive starts at the school level. People need to be introduced to the science of medical technology. It’s not something that many students know exists as a career.” This lack of interest in training programs is a major reason for the severe shortage of medical technologists on staff at clinical laboratories around the US. (Photo copyright: Lighthouse Lab Services.)
Stagnant Pay, Low Morale, Lack of Appreciation in Clinical Labs
“The major issue that we see with medical labs across the country is that they are understaffed,” Morrissey stated. “That tracks to low morale. It’s a major issue for laboratories because when a lab is understaffed and everyone is working very hard, lab staff may not feel appreciated and their morale starts to wane, which snowballs into larger issues.”
Morrissey pointed out that individuals who work for different sized clinical laboratories have dissimilar grievances about their jobs.
“Pay continues to be a concern for all, but benefits are also important,” she said. “Pay and lack of benefits, like not being able to get time off, not having a 401K, and not having health insurance are hurdles for people working in smaller labs.”
Professionals working in medium-sized and larger labs are also concerned about pay, but they have other complaints as well.
“They feel like they are a cog in the machine and feel underappreciated,” Morrissey said. “What we hear a lot from people who work in the clinical labs of large hospitals is that they feel unappreciated by those working in other departments.”
Too Few MT/MS Training Programs to Meet Demand
According to Forbes, the US currently has a shortage of approximately 20,000-25,000 medical technologists. The approximately 338,000 technologists working in the country equate to about one technologist per 1,000 people, which translates to a vacancy rate of 7% to 11% in almost every region.
Forbes also reported that medical technologists in the US had performed approximately 13 billion laboratory tests annually before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the pandemic added 997 million SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tests to the existing workload.
Intensifying the problem is that currently there are only 240 medical technologist and medical scientist training programs in the US, which represents a 7% decrease since 2000. Forbes notes there are some states that have no such training programs at all.
“Having the opportunity to train to be a medical technologist is an important thing,” Morrissey said. “More universities and community colleges need to offer associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in medical technology.”
However, even with an increase in available degrees, few students are enrolling in those programs.
Morrissey suggests that clinical lab professionals contact local educational institutions to inform them of the need for medical technology degrees and determine if they can do anything to help start such training programs.
“If you are a medical laboratory in an area that doesn’t have a school that offers a degree in medical technology, I would recommend banging down the doors of community colleges to see how you can get that type of program into place,” she proposed. “It really benefits you. It is really about getting those schools to realize there is a need for medical technologists.”
Morrissey added that schools are beginning to re-add medical technology programs to their curriculum. This may translate into more available MTs and CLSs to work in clinical laboratories and relieve some of the staffing shortages.
Laboratory Automation, More Federal Lobbying Could Help
Automating some medical laboratory operations could present another solution to staffing dilemmas.
“Automation will help a little bit,” she said. “A significant number of labs are adding automation—either at the technology or collection level—so they don’t need as many technologists to run the lab.”
Additionally, regionalization of clinical labs could help with staffing issues because high volumes of samples can allow for the streamlining of staff.
“Some integrated delivery networks (IDNs) that have multiple hospitals within a city or metro area are regionalizing their clinical laboratories and using couriers to transport the samples being collected, resulting in better efficiency and productivity,” she said.
Morrissey also believes there is room for lobbying for the occupation of medical technology at both the state and federal levels. She compared the clinical laboratory profession to how the nursing profession dealt with shortages in the past.
“Nursing is in all hospital and doctor groups,” she explained. “They have very large organizations that are advocating for them at the federal and state level and labs need more of that.”
Clinical Lab Recruiting Reverting to Pre-COVID Qualifications
Though more people are testing themselves for COVID at home, Morrissey says the need for more clinical laboratory professionals will not subside any time soon.
“Before COVID, there was a huge increase in requests for toxicology reports due to drug testing and screening,” she explained. “COVID caused those needs to go away, not because people didn’t need those things, but because everyone was focusing on COVID. If an individual is not going into work, does he or she really need a monthly drug screen? The needs shifted during COVID and now they are shifting back.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, medical labs were more willing to train individuals who had some lab experience or a background that would indicate they could perform the job duties. It is probable that recruiters will start to have more stringent requirements for potential lab employees, reverting back to pre-COVID qualifications.
Nevertheless, Morrissey believes staffing shortages for medical laboratories will continue.
“In the short term, in the next one to three years, I think it is going to get worse before it gets better,” she said. “In the medium term, automation in clinical laboratories will probably ease the staffing shortage quite a bit. Potentially, we will see more medical technology training programs pop up as the staffing shortages become a better-known issue.”
Answers and effective solutions to the lab profession’s most urgent challenges will be front and center at the innovative ‘Lab Management Essentials Workshop’
Three powerful forces are slamming clinical laboratories today. One is the urgent need to cut costs. Second is the struggle to achieve and maintain full lab staffing. Third is the pressure to increase revenue and expand market share.
All of this is happening even as hospitals and health systems must deal with almost identical issues. Cost-cutting, recruiting more staff, and finding ways to increase revenue dominate the thoughts and actions of senior health administrators.
Most Hospitals and Health Systems Report Substantial Financial Losses
News reports about the financial losses at hospitals and health systems tell the story. For example, one report in Becker’s Healthcare described the financial damage at three major, multi-state health systems:
AdventHealth, a 48-hospital health system, reported a $417.7 million net loss in the first quarter of 2022. It reported that, because of inflation, costs had increased by 15% over prior year.
Kaiser Permanente, with 12.6 million members in seven regions of the United States, reported a net loss of $961 million in the first quarter of 2022. One major factor in these losses was the increase in expenses, which was 9.5%. For second quarter 2022, Kaiser Permanente showed a loss of $1.3 billion, most of that from a decline in the value of its investment portfolio.
Ascension Health, with 143 hospitals in 19 states, reported a net loss of $884.7 million in first quarter of 2022. It said its costs increased by 10.6% over the same period last year.
Most hospital-based clinical laboratory managers and pathologist are aware of these staggering financial losses. They also are watching how the shortage of nurses and other skilled personnel has hospitals scrambling to close that gap by paying more overtime, using temporary nurses who are paid at much higher rates, and increasing nurse salaries to prevent existing staff nurses from taking more lucrative offers from other hospitals in the community.
Clinical Laboratories Under Pressure to Cut Costs and Maintain Adequate Staff Levels
Hospital-based laboratories are on the frontline of these hurricane forces. Facing operating losses, hospitals ask their laboratories and other clinical service lines to cut costs below authorized budgets. Meanwhile, the labs themselves must deal with their own shortage of medical technologists (MTs) and clinical laboratory scientists (CLSs)—along with other skilled positions—that are required to provide the full menu of lab testing services.
This “perfect storm” of pressures to cut costs, keep staffing at authorized levels, and generate more revenue (that can offset rising costs of lab supplies and the higher salaries being paid to MTs and CLSs) is without precedent in the past four decades. To provide lab managers with the knowledge to resolve these challenges swiftly and confidently in their own laboratories, the team behind the Executive War College assembled experts to conduct a one-and-a-half-day interactive workshop.
Using Lab Case Studies to Teach Proven Solutions for Reducing Expenses
Each of the three important topics will be addressed in half-day learning modules. Following case study presentations on best practices, attendees at Lab Management Essentials will break out into smaller roundtable groups facilitated by lab industry experts. The groups will brainstorm how to apply these proven methods to cut costs, retain employees, and create revenue. They will then describe their findings to all participants.
Lab Management Essentials Workshop facilitators (clockwise from top left): Tafney Gunderson, Carlton Burgess, Dorothy Martin, Rick VanNess, Jane Hermansen, and Kim Zunker.
On the morning of day one, leaders of the lab cost-cutting module will be:
Carlton Burgess, Vice President of Laboratory Services at Prime Healthcare in Ontario, Calif.
Tafney Gunderson, Quality Systems Supervisor at Avera McKennan Laboratory in Sioux Falls, S.D.
On the afternoon of day one, leaders of the lab staff recruiting, hiring, and retention module will be:
Dorothy Martin, Regional Laboratory Manager at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health in Lebanon, N.H.
Kim Zunker, MBA, MLS(ASCP), CAPM, Consulting Manager at Accumen in Scottsdale, Ariz.
On the morning of day two, leaders of the lab staff recruiting, hiring, and retention module will be:
Jane Hermansen, MBA, MT(ASCP), Manager of Outreach and Network Development at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Rick VanNess, Director of Product Management at Rhodes Group and TriCore Reference Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M.
Delivering Essential Knowledge to Up-and-Coming Laboratory Managers
This Lab Management Essentials workshop is a first for the clinical laboratory profession. It brings together experienced, effective lab leaders to teach, guide, and coach your lab’s smartest up-and-coming lab managers. It accomplishes this in just one-and-a-half days, to minimize the time they are away from your lab.
To gain maximum benefits from this well-designed program, it is recommended that you send three or four of your front-line lab managers. Together, they will hear and learn at the same time, while working during the intimate sessions to identify the techniques and methods that will work best for your lab. This is important because, upon their return, they will have both enthusiasm and the knowledge to light the right fires under your lab staff and energize them into quickly deploying ways to slash expenses, attract top candidates to fill open positions, and even to tap new sources of revenue—all of which they learned during Lab Management Essentials.
Because the number of attendees to each workshop is limited, you are encouraged to click here to register yourself and your designated lab managers today.
Recruiters should target five personas for hiring new talent and retaining existing staff, McKinsey says, a goal that would be challenging for clinical laboratories recruiting medical technologists
Clinical laboratories and pathology groups continue to struggle filling vacated positions with new hires and retaining adequate staff due to what has been dubbed the “Great Resignation.” The ongoing, pandemic-era phenomenon is seeing people leave their jobs in mass exodus and remains a characteristic of the 2022 labor market.
According to the US Department of Labor, 4.3 million people quit their jobs in January of this year. Of equal significance for hospital and health system medical laboratories with shrinking budgets, compensation rates are increasing for these positions at a steady pace.
This international economic trend continues to affect businesses across the country as workers leave their jobs in record numbers. Especially hard hit are hospitals and clinical laboratories, and recruiters seem at a loss as to what can be done to turn it around.
“This isn’t just a passing trend, or a pandemic-related change to the labor market,” Bonnie Dowling (above), Associate Partner at McKinsey, told CNBC. “There’s been a fundamental shift in workers’ mentality, and their willingness to prioritize other things in their life beyond whatever job they hold. We’re never going back to how things were in 2019.” Clinical laboratory recruiters can attest to that statement as they continue to struggle to fill open positions and maintain staffing levels. (Photo copyright: McKinsey and Company.)
Workers Are Unhappy and Unsatisfied
For their report, McKinsey surveyed more than 12,000 workers located in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Singapore to determine why they are resigning and what factors would sway them to remain in their positions.
Their findings suggest that 40% of the people in the workforce are unhappy and unsatisfied in their current jobs and are seeking better, more fulfilling employment opportunities. Among those workers who have recently resigned from a job, 41% said lack of opportunity for upward mobility and no pay or benefits was the top reason they quit.
The McKinsey analysts noted certain repetitive occurrences during the past year they attributed to the Great Resignation, which McKinsey calls the Great Attrition:
Reshuffling: Workers are resigning and taking positions in other industries, which is causing some industries to disproportionately lose talent.
Reinventing: Workers are vacating traditional employment and choosing nontraditional roles, such as temporary, gig, part-time work, or they are opting to start their own businesses.
Reassessing: Workers are leaving the workforce entirely to focus on other priorities, such as taking care of children or relatives, concentrating on self-care, or pursuing other interests.
Recruiters Should Focus on Five Unique Personas
As of June 30, there were 10.7 million job openings in the US, according to US Bureau of Labor statistics. And some industries, such as healthcare, are losing talent to other industries.
Among surveyed individuals who quit their jobs between April 2020 and April 2022 in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, 54% accepted a position within another industry or did not return to the workforce, according to McKinsey analysts.
The McKinsey report urges hiring managers to focus on five unique personas in their efforts to target and hire desired talent, and retain them as employees:
Traditionalists: Career-oriented individuals who are the mainstay of the classic labor pool. They are easier to find through common recruitment strategies, according to McKinsey, and are motivated by compensation, benefits, job titles, status, and opportunities for career advancement.
Do-it-yourselfers: These workers are typically 25 to 45 years old and value flexibility above all else when choosing jobs. They want autonomy to establish their own hours and the type of duties they will perform. This includes gig, part-time, and self-employed workers as well as full-time employees in nontraditional roles.
Caregivers: Workers who are at home due to other priorities, but who may be looking for an opportunity to re-enter the workforce. People in this group desire companies that are willing to work around their personal schedules. They could be coaxed back into the labor force with part-time options, four-day work weeks, flexible hours, and work-at-home positions.
Idealists: These workers tend to be in the 18- to 24-year-old age range, may be working part-time, or may still be students. These individuals value being part of a community and are most easily swayed by companies that have a strong organizational culture with an emphasis on meaning and purpose.
Relaxers: People who are not looking for work, but who could be convinced to return to the labor force under ideal circumstances. This group is mostly comprised of early- and natural-age retirees who still have productive years left. They represent the largest percentage of the latent workforce, McKinsey noted. Companies should consider seeking out these seasoned workers who may be more interested in meaningful work than a big paycheck.
“More employers have opened up their aperture in order to meet the yawning talent gap that they’re facing,” said Bonnie Dowling, Associate Partner at McKinsey and one of the authors of the report in an interview with CNBC. “They’re prioritizing skills over educational background or previous job experience, which is creating more opportunities across sectors for job-seekers.”
Four Strategies for Retaining Workers
Finally, the McKinsey report offered four strategies that companies can focus on to retain their existing talent and avoid resignations:
Sharpen traditional employee value status through compensation, benefits, career advancement potential, reputable job titles, and the overall prestige of the organization.
Build creative, nontraditional, value propositions revolving around flexibility, a strong company culture, and more personalized methods of career progression.
Expand and tailor talent-seeking approaches to woo nontraditional workers.
Invest in more meaning and belonging in the company’s culture to build stronger teams and relationships among workers.
“It’s everything from embedding flexibility in our credo to reassessing how we value our employees and provide them with the resources they need to do their job. All employers have the capacity to make these meaningful changes,” Dowling said. “But we have to start taking action, as opposed to sitting back and hoping that things are going to return to a ‘pre-pandemic norm’ because all signs point to the fact that they won’t.”
The ongoing labor shortage is affecting many industries, but it has been especially hard on healthcare and clinical laboratories.
Clinical laboratory recruiters may want to begin looking at the shifting economic scene in the US as an opportunity to restructure workplaces and create a better model to avoid resignations and retain workers.