An Assessment of Critical Issues Facing the Clinical Laboratory Workforce


Susan A. Chapman, Vanessa Lindler, Kory Ward-Cook

Jan 2005

The National Center for Health Workforce Analysis of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Bureau of Health Professions contracted with the University of California at San Francisco Center for the Health Professions to conduct a study of the clinical laboratory workforce. The study utilized existing and new survey data, in collaboration with the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), as well as interviews with experts in the field. This paper will describe the demographic characteristics, roles, and scope of practice of this workforce, as well as identify factors that influence the current and future demand for and supply of workers. There is ample evidence of a shortage of workers over the past few years, indicated by double-digit vacancy rates, increasing salaries, and the use of other incentives to fill positions. Recent data show a reduction in vacancy rates, although an increase in per diem and contract workers may mask a continuing shortage. There is recent growing interest in the profession, as evidenced by an increase of applicants to educational programs. Several factors make it difficult to predict the future need for and role of clinical laboratory workers, including an aging population and the demand for increased services, the possible retirement of many current workers, automation, new technology and tests, and public health challenges.