As Medical Laboratory Professionals Week 2013 (MLPW '13) approaches, laboratory personnel from across the country are turning in their nominations for Laboratory Professional and Laboratory of the Year and preparing to celebrate. Even as laboratorians are gearing up for their week in the spotlight, they continue to provide the results healthcare professionals -- and their patients -- depend on. Every day, millions of samples are analyzed by clinical laboratory professionals.
Clinical laboratory professionals have been the unsung -- and often unseen -- heroes of healthcare facilities, delivering crucial results in time to make the most important decisions about patient treatment. Often times, they receive little credit in the public's eye, despite providing key results in even the most difficult diagnoses. They don't even see the patients whose lives they've changed. Visit http://ascls.org/a-life-saved-video, to see how medical laboratorians are the detectives of healthcare.
"An objective of MLPW is to educate healthcare professionals, the public and others about the role of laboratory personnel in patient care," said Joan Polancic, MSEd, MLS (ASCP)CM, director of education and planning at the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS), in a recent interview about the importance of MLPW.
Everywhere you look, technological advances are being touted as the next big thing in medicine. The practice of pathology stands to make strides every day with a broadening range of testing and treatment methodologies. These emerging technologies are paving the way to more personalized medicine -- providing the right patient with the right treatment at the right time -- and are combined with traditional techniques in everyday practice to produce the most accurate results for the best therapy decisions.
"More and more testing is available that allows clinicians to target treatment for a specific patient, and laboratory results guide those treatment decisions," said Rick Panning, MBA, MLS(ASCP)CM, vice president of business development at Shared Clinical Services in Minneapolis, MN. "In addition, technologies in the infectious disease areas, such as MALDI-TOF, are going to change the expectations of performing infectious disease testing and being able to provide results to physicians in a much tighter time frame."
With the assimilation of IT solutions providing widespread access to patient information and results, the speed and availability of laboratory information will be vital. According to Panning, turnaround time is the issue that will change expectations in regards to technology and infectious disease testing, noting "if we can reduce steps and redundancy in the testing process or improve turnaround time, we are adding value."
According to the ASCP 2012 Vacancy survey taken every 2 years, laboratory workers are retiring at age 65 due to the economy, yielding a vacancy rate of 7 to 8 percent -- lower than anticipated.1 Despite this figure, the increasing volume of laboratory tests may require new skills in the laboratory workforce to meet future needs -- and, for clinical scientists coming out of school, the laboratory science boasts one of the best employment rates of any degree -- the eighth smallest unemployment rate for college majors.1,2
Clinical laboratorians continue to solidify their importance in the field through hard work and the ability to adapt with the advances of the industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, on the other hand, predicted the retirement of 40 percent of the laboratory work force between 2008 and 2018.2 As results are becoming more and more relied on, and the need for laboratory staff continues to increase -- meaning more positions for recent graduates and, potentially, better pay for current professionals.2
As the Affordable Care Act solidifies, it will influence the field in several ways. In the interview, Panning described how health insurance increasing dramatically in 2014, "when 30-32 million people will have coverage," would impact clinical laboratories. With so many covered patients, the need for fast and accurate results will ramp up as fast as the number of patients -- at which point, clinicians will rely on laboratories to provide that data and support.
"Since the emphasis on preventative medicine will increase," he explained, "the laboratory's role in testing will be a key contributing factor. I also believe that our ability to provide service and laboratory information across the continuum of care -- physician offices, hospitals, long term care, etc. -- will be key, as coordination of care is one of the current gaps in healthcare."
Turn to our Lab Week Toolkit (www.advanceweb.com/MLPW) to see the diverse and creative ways laboratories across the country are celebrating MLPW.
"What I always find interesting is the variety of MLPW activities that laboratory professionals conduct each year," said Polancic. "We hear from many of our members who promote MLPW in their hospitals/workplaces with a number of educational activities and some fun events to celebrate the individuals who do such important work." A group from ASCLS New Jersey has visited the Today Show to promote MLPW with posters during the plaza crowd shots. One day, they hope to even talk to Matt and Al! "The future of MLPW is strong," she commented enthusiastically.
MLPW is an engaging way to celebrate the efforts of the professionals across the country, whose contributions influence such a large part of diagnosis, monitoring and treatment, because they truly do get results. Be sure to check out all our resources for MLPW '13 by visiting www.advanceweb.com/MLPW and find additional resources from ASCLS by visiting www.ascls.org/mlpw.
Michael Jones is on staff at ADVANCE. He can be reached at email@example.com.
- Garcia E, Ali A, Choudhry S. Increased demand. Available at: http://laboratorian.advanceweb.com/Features/Articles/Increased-Demand.aspx. Last accessed Mar. 11, 2013.
- Harol J. Moving ahead. Available at: http://laboratorian.advanceweb.com/Archives/Article-Archives/Moving-Ahead.aspx. Last accessed Mar. 11, 2013.