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).
In comparison to similar jobs in healthcare, clinical laboratory technician earnings exceed Medical Records Technicians, but come in lower than MRI Technologists, Radiologic Technologists, and Cardiovascular Technologists, USNWR noted.
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.
In “Filling Another Labor Gap; Medical Labs,” the Quad-City Times reports that the Trinity College of Nursing and Health Sciences in Rock Island, Illinois, has unveiled a new program to meet that need: the Medical Laboratory Science Program.
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.
As Dark Daily reported in “Clinical Laboratory Technician Shares Personal Journey and Experience with Burnout During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” burnout in healthcare is a constant problem, especially in overstressed clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups.
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.