Let's start a dialogue!

March 1, 2012

Let's make the
2012 Annual Salary Survey
—printed in this month's issue of MLO—only the beginning of a dialogue between the editors and the readers of Medical Laboratory Observer. We'd like to use the survey as a starting point to know more about the concerns, challenges, satisfactions, frustrations, and expectations for the future that our readers have. This will enable MLO to serve its readership better, and also allow readers a forum for sharing their experiences in the pages of upcoming issues.

Where to begin? Well, as those of you who filled out the survey online already know, it is about much more than salaries. The survey asked about your job title; what kind of lab you work in; the size of your lab, in terms of number of employees; your supervisory responsibilities; how long you have been a laboratorian and how long with your current employer; what kinds of shifts you work; which certifications you hold and which professional organizations you have received certification from; continuing education; the volume of tests your lab performs annually; the benefits you are offered; your sense of your job security; your job satisfaction; how you and your lab are affected by the nationwide shortage of lab personnel; outsourcing of tests; automation; and more. These are topics of great importance and some controversy, or at least differences of opinion. Please share your opinions with MLO. (You can indicate whether or not you want your comments published and if so, whether you want your name used or withheld.)

The survey also asked respondents whether they would like to be part of the MLO team by submitting article ideas, peer-reviewing articles, or submitting lab tips. Whether you filled out the survey or not, it is never too late to volunteer those services by writing me at the email address at the end of this column.

The survey article alludes to the section on “Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians” in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook. The authors of that Handbook section make some interesting assertions, including these:

  • “With increasing automation and the use of computer technology, the work of technologists and technicians has become less hands-on and more analytical.”
  • “The complexity of tests performed, the level of judgment needed, and the amount of responsibility workers assume depend largely on the amount of education and experience they have.”
  • “Technologists in small laboratories perform many types of tests, whereas those in large laboratories generally specialize.”
  • “Clinical laboratory technicians perform less complex tests and laboratory procedures than technologists do.”
  • “Laboratory workers may spend a great deal of time on their feet.”
  • “Technicians can advance and become technologists through additional education and experience.”
  • “Rapid job growth and excellent job opportunities are expected. Most jobs will continue to be in hospitals, but employment will grow rapidly in other settings, as well.”

Do you agree with all these generalizations? Do you think that any of them need to be stated more specifically, or to be qualified in some way, or to be restated in order to account for exceptions? Let us know.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook does not directly address the issues of the aging population of laboratorians or the expected shortages to come. Doug Beigel, CEO of COLA, speaking with the Baltimore Sun not long ago (September 10, 2011), did. He described the looming shortages as “a perfect storm” of converging factors, and noted that many young people are not even aware of the profession: “Students don't understand this [career] even exists. There is this huge opportunity if kids know about this when making decisions about their careers.” Do you agree this is a problem? How can laboratorians help to address it? Might the renewed emphasis in schools on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (“STEM”) nowadays make a difference? Tell us what you think.

MLO's 2012 Annual Salary Survey
to see what “the survey says….” Then let MLO know what you have to add.

To email the editor: [email protected]