Results of a survey released today by the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) confirm that a nation-wide shortage of medical laboratory technologists is looming on the horizon.
The survey looked at the employment status of the 137 medical laboratory technologists who completed the national certification examination in 1998. It found that 91.9 per cent of graduates were employed as medical laboratory technologists one year after graduation – an increase of 17.8 per cent over the 1997 survey. "While this is good news for the graduates, it is a warning that a shortage of medical laboratory technologists is approaching faster than anticipated," says CSMLS President, Joan Lailey.
A report published in May 1999 by the Advisory Committee on Health Human Resources predicts that there will be a serious shortage of medical laboratory technologists within the next five to ten years. According to the report, approximately 16 per cent of technologists are expected to retire in five years – 33 per cent in ten years. However, training programs for medical laboratory technologists have been cut back or eliminated in recent years. "Based on current enrollment figures, there won’t be enough graduates to replace those who will retire over the next ten years," says CSMLS Executive Director, Kurt Davis.
As a point of comparison, in 1998 there were approximately 164 students enrolled in medical laboratory training programs in eight programs in Canada (outside Quebec) compared to 752 students in 21 programs in 1993. The only province that appears to have a sufficient number of training positions is Quebec.
"The increase in the uptake of new graduates into the workforce is an indication of things to come," says Mr. Davis. "In some provinces, such as British Columbia, 100 per cent of the graduates found work as medical laboratory technologists within a year. Employers in that province are already having trouble filling positions in the lab."
CSMLS has urged the provincial and federal governments to take immediate action to ensure that there is a sufficient number of training positions to meet the demand for medical laboratory technologists. "We are facing a serious situation–and the timing couldn’t be worse. The shortage of technologists will hit at a time when the demand for laboratory services is expected to increase due to the health care needs of the aging population," says Ms. Lailey. "It takes a minimum of two years to train a medical laboratory technologist. We must take action today to ensure that we are able to meet the health care needs of Canadians in the future."
CSMLS is the certifying body and professional society for medical laboratory technologists in Canada. It represents 14,000 highly trained medical laboratory technologists who conduct sophisticated medical tests on blood, body fluids and tissue in hospitals, public or privately based laboratories and in research facilities. Test results are used by physicians to evaluate and make informed decisions about their patients’ health and possible treatment or to help further advances in medical research. Medical laboratory technologists represent the third largest group of health care professionals after nurses and physicians.