Clinical Microbiology Workforce Survey 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown a spotlight on laboratory medicine, showcasing how vital diagnostic testing is for the healthcare system and society. The ability to prevent the spread of disease is directly dependent on our ability, as a society, to rapidly and accurately identify responsible pathogen(s)-a feat only made possible through the work and commitment of trained laboratory professionals. Shortages of trained and experienced laboratory personnel have been encountered for decades. COVID-19 has not only brought this reality to light, but also accelerated the crisis. The need for laboratory professionals is expected to grow by 11% between 2020 and 2030, a rate considered faster than the overall average of all other healthcare occupations.

In full support of clinical microbiologists, in gratitude for their commitment to the health and well-being of our society and in recognition of the added challenges that clinical laboratory professionals have faced throuhgout the pandemic, the American Society for Microbiology seeks to be proactive in addressing this critical staffing shortage. The Personnel Standards and Workforce Subcommittee (PS&W) is a sub-committee within ASM devoted to understanding the issues and standards associated with clinical microbiology workforce. In 2021, the subcommittee set out to collect contemporary data from ASM members, specifically those involved in the clinical microbiology laboratory.

The results of the full survey and analysis can be downloaded here. Our hope is that it will be useful for clinical microbiology laboratories to provide comparative data to support both local and national efforts to improve the shortage of trained personnel. A commentary related to this subject has been published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. Some highlights from the survey are shared below.

Respondents:

Laboratory Type (%)

A total of 194 respondents are represented from a variety of settings, with University/Academic medical enters being the most common.
Source: Amy L. Leber, Ph.D., D(ABMM), SM(ASCP)MB)

A total of 194 respondents are represented from a variety of settings, with University/Academic medical enters being the most common.

Medical Laboratory Scientists vs Test Volume

MLS vs Test Volume
Source: Amy L. Leber, Ph.D., D(ABMM), SM(ASCP)MB)

The workload compared to the number of Medical Laboratory Scientists (MLS) of these respondents is shown. For labs with volumes 200,000 reported 10 or greater MLS.

Vaccines

The data collected from the survey supports the fact that there continues to be significant shortage of trained personnel across all types of laboratories.

Open Positions for Medical Laboratory Scientists (%)

Open Positions for MLS (%).
Source: Amy L. Leber, Ph.D., D(ABMM), SM(ASCP)MB)

80% of responding labs reported open positions for medical laboratory scientists.

Open Positions for Medical Laboratory Technicians (%)

Open Positions for MLT (%).
Source: Amy L. Leber, Ph.D., D(ABMM), SM(ASCP)MB)

50% of respondents had at least one open position for Medical Laboratory Technicians (MLT).

Obstacles

There are many factors that contribute to the shortage of qualified personnel to work in the microbiology laboratory and other areas of the clinical lab.

Biggest Obstacle to Filling Vacant MLS Positions (%)
Source: Amy L. Leber, Ph.D., D(ABMM), SM(ASCP)MB)

When given a list of some of the obstacles, respondents listed “lack of qualified applicants” most often.

The Rest of the Story

The full survey and analysis can be found below. It contains results from 19 survey questions and additional analysis comparing laboratory staffing, oversight, training and other challenges faced by clinical microbiology laboratories.

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