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Most Lab Professionals Work in Understaffed Labs, Are Burnt Out

by | Aug 9, 2022 | News

According to a recent survey of 1,112 respondents, despite modest salary increases, most medical lab professionals are struggling in understaffed labs.

According to a recently published survey, despite salary increases from what they were receiving in 2021, a majority of lab professionals are feeling burnt out and are working in understaffed labs.

The 2022 Wage and Morale Survey of Medical Laboratory Professionals, conducted by medical lab consulting and recruiting firm Lighthouse Lab Services, collected responses from 1,112 people involved in the US lab industry through a variety of outreach methods. Of those respondents, 40 percent said their labs were “moderately understaffed” while 33 percent said their labs were “significantly understaffed,” according to the survey results.

The 73 percent of respondents who described their labs as understaffed were also more likely to report feelings of dissatisfaction, with 44 percent saying they were unsatisfied in their role. This is in spite of 72 percent of all respondents receiving modest salary increases of between one and five percent, Lighthouse says, adding that those who did not see salary increases were also more likely to report feelings of dissatisfaction. However, the survey notes that these salary increases haven’t kept pace with inflation.

Specific roles of respondents included:

  • 49% technologists
  • 21% managers
  • 17% technicians
  • 7% administrative lab directors
  • 4% medical lab directors
  • 2% lab assistants

Most respondents (36%) said they had more than 21 years of experience in the lab and a majority (75%) also stated they work in high-complexity labs.

While understaffing and insufficient efforts to counter it have long been issues in the medical lab industry, the survey adds new insight to these challenges, showing that while morale was surprisingly high among all respondents, those with less experience tended to have lower morale. A possible cause for low morale among new workers cited in the survey included low salaries that don’t compensate for the high cost of the education required to work in the medical lab industry, showing that more effort needs to be made to attract new workers to the field.

Though this is the first wage and morale survey Lighthouse has done, the firm says the goal was to learn how experience levels, different departments, morale, and wage correlate and to provide strong data that lab owners and leaders can take action on.

“We want to provide medical lab professionals with good, actionable data that they can take back to their HR departments or managers to better understand the status of our industry,” said Jon Harol, president of Lighthouse Lab Services, in the survey report. “We also hope to inform lab owners and decision-makers of the feedback we received to help guide their future compensation and staffing decisions.”

Based on the results of this first survey, Lighthouse recommends increasing the number of degrees and training programs offered across the US to boost numbers of medical lab professionals and that labs should ensure they maintain sufficient numbers of staff if they want to keep staff morale up and avoid burnout. The firm adds it plans on continuing to do the survey on an annual basis.

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