Recruiting Campaign Addresses Growing Shortage of Medical Lab Professionals

A new, three-pronged campaign by Abbott Diagnostics aims to educate hospital professionals and young people about the life-saving work of medical laboratory scientists while giving med tech schools the resources they need to recruit the next generation of lab talent.?

The company’s ‘Labs Are Vital’ recruitment, education, and awareness initiative is built around a million-dollar equipment donation program for lab training institutions, a consumer advertising campaign and the launch of a new website focusing attention on the life-saving work that medical laboratory scientists provide in diagnosing disease and improving health outcomes.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that by 2012, there will be a need for 138,000 laboratory scientists, but that only 42,000 will be trained and available by then.

But Abbott says the pinch is already being felt in some locations where patients are required to travel considerable distances or make appointments months in advance to have routine medical tests conducted. That’s because some hospitals have consolidated laboratory operations or chosen to compress the schedules for laboratory services. These changes are in response to a labor shortage and growing cost pressures in healthcare.?

Likewise, educational institutions that train laboratory scientists are also being challenged in a number of ways, including dealing with the escalating cost of buying equipment for the lab. The cost burden of acquiring new laboratory equipment for training purposes?– which ranges from several thousand dollars to more than $200,000?– continues to increase as newer technology becomes available, forcing some educational institutions to close down their laboratory science programs.

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“The Labs are Vital initiative is aimed at drawing attention to the efforts of a segment of the healthcare profession who collectively make vast contributions every day to the lives of millions of patients,” says Don Patton, vice president, global diagnostic commercial operations for Abbott. “We hope this campaign will encourage young people to consider a career in laboratory medicine, and help ensure the viability of med tech schools so they’re able to educate the next generation of these dedicated and talented professionals.”

Along with the equipment donation program, Abbott also will kick off an ad campaign to celebrate the work of laboratory professionals and attract young people to the field. “The role of the laboratory scientist isn’t well known outside of healthcare, and this communications campaign will help close the knowledge gap about the many contributions of these dedicated professionals,” Patton says. The campaign, he adds, also is expected to be a source of pride within the lab community and is hoped to help motivate and inspire those already in the field.

The Labs Are Vital effort website will provide resources to lab professionals, information on the status of legislation important to laboratorians, and a forum for exchanging practices that lead to improvements in laboratory efficiency or management and other related topics.

Abbott says that a range of additional programs is in development, including initiatives to help colleges and universities improve graduation rates for students with laboratory science degrees.