Qualified Applicants Seeking to Fill U.S. Med Tech Positions Are Abundant

Across the globe, the supply of medical technologists (MT) and clinical laboratory scientists (CLS) falls far short of the staffing demands of clinical pathology laboratories. The United States is no exception and this is one reason why growing numbers of U.S. medical laboratories are willing to recruit medical technologists who trained abroad.

Of course, this is not exactly a new development. For more than two decades, a primary source of clinical laboratory scientists to medical laboratories in California has been the Philippines. This happened for two reasons. First, the close historical and cultural ties between the Philippines and the United States have always made California an attractive employment destination for Filipinos. Also, because many Filipinos were raised speaking two languages, they are comfortably fluent when speaking English.

Graph Provided by Passport USA

Second, universities and colleges in the Philippines offer well-established training programs in medical technology. Many of these programs teach precisely the knowledge, skills, and hands-on laboratory experience needed for a graduate to pass the MT and CLS certification examinations required to work in the United States.

In response to the supply/demand gap for MTs and CLSs in the United States, more recruitment firms are popping up that specialize in placing foreign medical technologists into domestic clinical laboratories. Curious about this new phenomenon, your Dark Daily editor contacted one of these MT recruitment experts to find out whether this recruitment process is easy and what pitfalls might be experienced by American medical laboratories that hire foreign med techs.

U.S. Clinical Labs Can Fill MT Positions in a Reasonable Time Frame

“In states where there is no licensure requirement, it takes about eight to 12 weeks to recruit a foreign medical technologist and have them working in the clinical laboratory,” stated Andrew Lingo, Director, Passport USA, a division of Health Carousel, LLC. This firm helps medical professionals from outside the country fill positions within the United States. “For states that require licensing, it can take about three months,” he added.

With offices in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Manila, Philippines, Passport USA first began importing healthcare professionals to the U.S. in 2004. The first Medical Technologists passed through the Passport USA program in 2010.

According to Lingo, many candidates that wish to work in the United States have already achieved state licenses for those states that require it, such as California, Florida, West Virginia and New York. Many have Bachelor’s degrees, and many have worked in medical laboratories that are accredited to ISO 15189. They may also have experience working in the laboratory of a hospital accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI) either in the Philippines or Saudi Arabia.

“Some studies show that it can take as long as six to nine months to fill some of these MT and CLS positions from within the United States,” explained Lingo. “So, when [medical labs] compare that to the possibility of waiting three months for someone they’ve already selected, and that they expect to arrive from off-shore in a few weeks, it’s a compelling offer.

“And for those laboratories that are currently using traditional contract staffing on a full-time basis,” he added, “this is a less costly alternative.”

Foreign Medical Technologists Have Comparable Skills and Licensing

According to the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), “because the Philippine health system is patterned after the U.S. health system, medical technologists trained in the Philippines are comfortable in U.S. laboratories. Automation in Philippine laboratories is comparable to automation in U.S. laboratories as well.”

“In the Philippines, clinical laboratories are divided into three categories: tertiary, secondary, and primary,” said Agnes B. Medenilla, BSMT, MS, MT(ASCP), Chair of the ASCP-Filipino Globalization Task Force for Certification. “The tertiary are fully automated. The secondary have some automation; specifically, hematology labs are automated. In the primary labs, including labs in the provinces—automation might be 30% to 50%.”

Studies show that hiring medical talent from outside the U.S. can cost about the same as hiring similar candidates from within the U.S., but hiring temporary contract labor to fill the same positions can cost considerably more. Rates for temporary contract labor tends to range from $50 to $65 per hour, dependent on local market factors.

Also, candidates from some nations find that they have the necessary skills but their local education does not fulfill licensure requirements in the U.S., requiring them to take additional classes in the U.S. to become licensed. According to Lingo, this is usually not the case with candidates from the Philippines.

“What’s unique about the Philippines is the educational programs are mirrored after U.S. programs,” said Lingo. “So, the types of classes [candidates] take, and the number of credit hours, makes it easy for them to secure licensure when necessary, prepares them for the licensure tests and makes them good quality candidates when they get here.”

What Clinical Laboratories Can Expect When Hiring Foreign MTs

Organizations such as Passport USA specialize in guiding both the employee and employer through the complex process of hiring non-U.S. citizen candidates to fill U.S.-based jobs. “We make sure it’s good for the candidate, and good for the client,” Lingo said. “We handle the immigration process from start to finish, and act as the MT’s initial visa sponsor. This eliminates a lot of hesitancies that clients have about international recruitment,” he added.

“Our clients don’t just end up with a new employee showing up at the airport needing housing,” he continued. “We pick the employee up at the airport. Next, they spend a few days in our office becoming familiarized with the area. Then we take them to the area where they’ll be working. We take them to the grocery store, make sure they have bedding and furniture, and help them establish bank accounts and obtain Social Security numbers.”

“We collaborate with the employer to arrange for their housing and local transportation before they arrive,” explained Lingo. “We also give them a cash stipend to help them get started. That way, they won’t be a burden to their new clinical laboratory employer when they arrive to start work.”

What Candidates Can Expect When Seeking Employment in the U.S.

Candidates can specify the regions of the U.S. where they’d prefer to work, and Passport USA tries to accommodate those requests as much as possible. According to Lingo, California, New York and Florida are popular destination choices. Often, though, available positions are not in those three locations.

“We don’t force candidates to work in specific States,” observed Lingo. “We take into account their wishes and we do our best to put them there. But we might present them with other laboratory facilities out of that region. We help them understand that there are other great cities they can go to that might not be warm places—but they are great places to work and raise a family.”

It is an interesting fact that the Philippines is not currently experiencing a shortage of medical technologists. The ASCP provides detailed information on international certification of medical technologists, which is available at www.ascp.org/International. Clinical laboratories interested in learning more about hiring Filipino medical technologists should contact Steve Albert at steve.albert@passportusa.com or call 513-665-4544 at extension 14.

Pathologists and clinical laboratory managers should keep in mind that Andrew Lingo’s comments reflect his company’s direct experience in helping clinical laboratories in the United States hire medical technologists and clinical laboratory scientists from the Philippines. Certainly there are many other countries across the globe where educational systems graduate individuals with the right skills to be a medical technologist.

Because the shortage of medical technologists and clinical laboratory scientists in this country will continue to worsen, it can be expected that ever more U.S. medical laboratories will be willing to recruit and hire foreign-trained MTs and CLSs.

Related Information:

Staff Shortages in Labs May Put Patients at Risk

The State of Medical Technology in the Philippines

ASCPi Certification & Qualification: Our Global Response to a Changing World