Vol. 24 • Issue 5
• Page 12
You've read the savvy job-seeker advice about attention-getting résumés, exploring social media, building a professional network. Now you are about to hear something that isn't always trumpeted: It's a seller's market and you are the commodity. Laboratories need you now more than ever, and will need you even more tomorrow than today. You are in that enviable "driver's seat" where you can be reasonably picky when selecting your place of employment. Why? There simply is not enough of "you" to go around.
Case in point: "I had a full-time position open for 9 months," tells David Delvecchio, MT(ASCP), laboratory manager at Mercy Suburban Hospital, a 126-bed facility in the Philadelphia suburbs. He says the hospital is "more than competitive" in salary and benefits, but staffing can still be a challenge.
"I'd go 3 months at a stretch without even getting a résumé from a qualified person or being able to call someone in for an interview," says Delvecchio. "It's just a case of a limited available workforce."
He's right. It's a tale retold across the country as some 40,000 laboratory jobs remain unfilled in the U.S. "The number of open jobs will continue to rise," says Jon Harol of Lighthouse Recruiting, specializing in recruitment of mid-level laboratory professionals. "The number needed in the field will grow by 14 percent by 2018-significantly faster than other industries. It's good to be a med tech-you can have confidence in knowing you chose the right career."
Harol is first to admit he's heard more than one laboratorian say, "We hear about a shortage, but where is it?" And indeed there had been a reticence to hire by facilities.
"We've seen a change over the last 5 months; it's become 'explosive,'" says Harol of renewed interest in hiring. "As healthcare reform first came through, a lot of hospitals took a stance of 'let's wait and see what it means.' Expansion plans and hiring got put on hold. Managers tried to stretch existing staffs. But with the stock market turnaround last year, a lot of people who had been waiting to retire until their 401Ks looked better finally started to exit the field. Hospitals and reference laboratories that weren't spending have started to put an emphasis on hiring again." They have to, and they want to.
The reality of the situation is that laboratory services do not fall under "discretionary" healthcare spending. "With PT or MRI, a patient might opt to end sessions early or forgo an MRI due to costs," says Harol. "But when a physician recommends a blood test, few patients say no. If it's needed, it's done."
With vacancy rates for lab workers pushing ever higher across the country, certain regions are harder hit than others. "The West Coast has it the worst-about 53 percent of labs report difficulty in hiring-5 months on average to fill an opening," notes Harol. That translates to the highest salaries. California leads the pack with a laboratorian's annual salary hovering at about $75,000 per year.
"Majoring in medical technology was really big in the 1970s and a lot of baby boomers went into the field," explains Harol. "So many laboratorians are all around the same age, going through the career pipeline and getting toward the end of their careers together." With 40 percent of those aging lab professionals expected to retire by 2018-50 percent by 2020-efforts are under way to grow a corps of future laboratorians in hopes of stemming the tidal wave of shortages.
Growing the Workforce
For example, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) has partnered with the Clinton Global Initiative in a 5-year commitment for "Expanding the Laboratory Workforce for the 21st Century."
The ASCP effort will put laboratorians into the pipeline for the future. But for the time being, you call the shots. Harol suggests you take your time when selecting an employer. "Candidates/interviewees can really be on equal footing-even in the driver's seat of the process. Be careful how you come across-cocky never plays well," he warns. "But make sure you do not jump at the first job offered to you. Weigh all the different options and benefits. You have an opportunity and a right to be selective."
Valerie Neff Newitt (email@example.com) is managing editor of ADVANCE.