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The Canadian Medical Laboratory Profession’s Call to Action

The Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) is the national and provincial certification leader for medical laboratory technologists (MLTs) and medical laboratory assistants/technicians (MLAs), and the national professional society for Canada's medical laboratory professionals (MLPs).

This document should be disseminated to educators, deans, administrators, clinical placement sites, regulators, accreditors, provincial health and education government representatives and other medical laboratory stakeholders as required. Please forward to your colleagues and help support the Call to Action.

The HHR shortage associated with MLTs is at a transformative tipping point. At CSMLS, we believe that an intensified effort by Canada’s medical laboratory stakeholders can push the agenda forward into real and meaningful change.

Meeting the laboratory testing needs of Canadians while fixing the MLT shortage is a challenge. The Call to Action focuses on ways medical laboratory stakeholders can contribute and how MLPs can be employed more effectively. The Call to Action recognizes the hard work and collaboration conducted by many individuals to date and asks for extended efforts as we forge into a critical period over the next 10 years.

The impact of the proposed change will be felt not only by our profession but also by each Canadian who enters the health system and requires a laboratory test. Your child, your relative, your friend, your colleague—all Canadians across the entirety of their lives.

In addition to the information presented in the background section and views expressed within the CSMLS position statement titled,“Use of Simulation to Reduce Clinical Placement Hours,” the following Call to Action is required:

  • 1.   Public and private laboratories should recognize the negative impact precarious positions and workload burdens have on the employment of current and future workforces and work towards a brighter future for their organizations and MLPs.
    • a.   Recognizing the problem of fiscal constraint in today’s health care system, CSMLS asks that you evaluate your human health resource and infrastructure budgets under a long-term lens and continue to advocate for permanent full-time positions, create new collaborations with academic partners for clinical placement student spots, reserve positions for new graduates using formalized mentoring models with experienced MLPs and address the mental health issues in the workplace that are plaguing our profession.
  • 2.   We need to increase the number of students received by quality clinical placement sites to support and enrich competency obtainment. This includes building a financial and resource infrastructure to allocate dedicated training time for clinical instructors and preceptors.
    • a.   CSMLS recognizes the importance of hands-on experience for students and appreciates the work by laboratories and academic programs to achieve this. We acknowledge that new clinical placement models are required and welcome evaluated innovation to meet student competency needs for CSMLS certification.
    • b.   Laboratories not previously accepting students should evaluate their ability to contribute to the Call to Action and determine their ability in collaboration with academic programs.
    • c.   Academic programs have reported evidence that specific competency sign-off can be obtained within a simulated environment. In alignment with accreditation requirements, academic programs should explore the possibility of models that involve such sign-off and network with other programs to identify steps and evidence to accomplish this. Such efforts would facilitate new models for clinical placements and a potential reduction in clinical hour requirements.
  • 3.   Starting immediately, we need an unparalleled increase in MLT academic student seats to combat the current and future HHR shortage. Academic programs, clinical placement sites and non-clinical placement site laboratories need to formally evaluate their programs with administration and determine how to enhance student clinical placement training and increase student throughput (increase total numbers).
    • a.   CSMLS recognizes the shortage is regionally, provincially and nationally relevant, ranging from remote to urban locations, and we recommend that academic programs collaborate, collect and share evidence for seat increase allowances under a multifocal lens.
    • b.   The use of system models that include enhanced or new collaborations between programs and laboratories, including pan-Canadian considerations (e.g., inter- and intra-provincial partnerships), shorter clinical placement hours and/or alternative models of and within clinical training (e.g., simulation, standardized objective structure clinical examinations, buddy system and student-to-student exercises), should be considered to meet clinical placement site needs.
    • c.   The use of simulation to support hands-on practice in order to complement clinical placement training is encouraged and should be incorporated into academic programs where expertise and infrastructure have been or will be dedicated.
    • d.   In line with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, attention should be paid for the inclusion of Aboriginal students in all medical laboratory programs, including designated seats, clinical placement options in Aboriginal communities and collaborations to create guaranteed employment after CSMLS certification. Consideration for other underrepresented populations of students should be considered locally.
    • e.   The integration of internationally educated health professionals (IEHPs) into the workforce has been identified as a promising strategy for addressing HHR shortages in many countries. Using best-practice information for the creation and enhancement of medical laboratory bridging programs as well as for other recruitment and retention strategies is vital.
    • f.   Academic admission requirements and processes differ across MLT programs and that contributes to student retention variance. An evaluation of MLT admission requirements and processes should be conducted to ensure that the retention of students entering a program is at optimal capacity. Given that there is not a shortage of individuals wanting to enter the MLP profession, consideration for a formal screening process, compared to a ‘first come first qualified’ process, should be implemented.
  • 4.   MLAs and MLTs working in the clinical environment with students help shape the professional pride and practice of the future workforce. Efforts to create a working environment that is supportive of this and the Call to Action are imperative to the change process. CSMLS asks that you continue to support each other locally during this critical period, identify areas for change and communicate innovative projects/solutions to your peers nationally.
    • a.   CSMLS will support the dissemination of efforts to members in accordance with CSMLS policy
    • b.   Ensure best practice methods are used when training students in the clinical environment. When this cannot be achieved, notify your supervisor/manager (in accordance with local policies) as soon as possible to seek solutions that support your work as well as the training of students. Provide the supervisor/manager with a copy of this Call to Action to support your case for change.
    • c.   It is the professional’s responsibility to uphold their actions to the Standards of Practice, Code of Professional Conduct and Code of Ethics.

CSMLS firmly stands by the need for large-scale transformation to combat the MLT shortage and the impact it has on MLPs, patients and other laboratory stakeholders. Above all, CSMLS is focused on supporting its members and the profession to meet the needs of Canadians, ensuring high functioning laboratory teams and the proactive, safe, effective and affordable promotion of laboratory services that are informed by evidence and delivered in a timely manner across our nation.

© 2018 - CSMLS-SCSLM