Post-Covid Recovery for Laboratories, Part 2: The Staff

By Darryl Elzie, PsyD, MHA, MT (ASCP), CQA (ASQ)

March 04, 2022

Post-Covid Recovery for Laboratories – The Staff (Part 2)

The first part of this series discussed the future of the healthcare laboratory market and its possibilities. Market trends expect molecular testing, anatomic pathology, and flow cytometry disciplines to continue to experience significant growth. There will also be an increased demand for laboratory testing in response to the need to treat new and reoccurring pathogens.

In part 2 of this series, we will discuss the most critical part of any business operation—the staff.

Even before the onset of the pandemic, the healthcare industry was experiencing a significant reduction in the number of experienced and qualified laboratory personnel. Add the frustration, anger, and sadness wrought by uncertainty, ever-increasing demands, and a seemingly ungrateful public, many laboratory professionals have chosen to retire, seek another profession, or simply quit.

Today there are many new opportunities for trained laboratorians and an increased demand for experienced technicians and technologists. The rules of the free market are in play. Fewer people mean laboratorians are now being offered higher salaries and benefits. Courts have even become involved when lab personnel leaves one employer to go to another.

What's a laboratory to do?

The laboratory will need to review its staffing needs now to determine what staffing will look like in the future based on testing changes and potential expansion. Lab managers and administrators should develop robust and novel retention policies and programs to slow the loss of technical knowledge.

Eliminate Salary Disparity

Staff attrition due to experienced employees retiring or resigning has increased during the pandemic. Administrators need to work on ways to retain these valuable employees. Increasing compensation has the potential to increase employee retention.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the May 2020 mean annual wage of Clinical Laboratory Technologists was $55,990. This is compared to the 2020 mean annual salary of $80,010 for registered nurses. Both occupations have comparable four-year degree education requirements, training, and importance in life-saving ability. As mentioned in Part I, 70% of medical decisions are based on laboratory-generated data.

Staff management software is the ultimate tool for attracting and retaining a quality workforce. Discover how StaffReady's suite of solutions can help you today: 


Many companies offer tuition reimbursement to their employees. However, much of this goes unused because employees no longer are interested in pursuing additional degrees or the reimbursement program is too difficult to navigate.

A novel idea that would help retain employees is for employers to allow dependents of employees to have access to unused educational benefits. The allowance could be restricted to dependents covered under the employee's health insurance. This type of benefit can strengthen the employer-employee relationship and reduce the tendency for an employee to transfer to another lab not offering a similar benefit.

Another benefit deserving serious reconsideration is onsite childcare. Employer-sponsored childcare is a highly attractive benefit for employees with children. One of the most costly and stress-inducing necessities of parenting while working is finding affordable child care.

Providing childcare onsite is incredibly enticing for employees in health professions working at facilities like hospitals or large independent laboratories that are open twenty-four hours a day. Studies have shown employees working for employers offering onsite childcare were higher performers and were absent less than those with offsite child care or employees without children.

Partner with Schools and Colleges

To meet future market demands, laboratories should also develop or strengthen their relationships with schools and colleges training today's and tomorrow's laboratory professionals. Many schools, especially those in rural states, have difficulty finding locations for clinical rotations. Offering rotations to out-of-state as well as in-state student technologists and technicians allow the laboratory access to fresh talent that might otherwise go elsewhere.

The majority of medical technology students are looking for ways to offset the costs of attendance. In response to a question on what laboratory students and technologists are looking for, Dana Baker, MBA, MS, MLS(ASCP), CM assistant professor in the department of clinical laboratory sciences, School of Health Professions, University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) remarked, "seeking contributions and insights from others is really important...I've heard from [colleagues] I don't need any more yoga classes...I didn't ask for that, but where I do need help is in childcare, leave, and tuition reimbursement."

The Feds on Staffing

According to the Code of Federal Regulations, there are specific education and experience requirements for laboratory personnel performing non-waived testing. Non-waived testing is categorized as either moderate or high complexity. Personnel performing moderate complexity testing must have at least a high school diploma.

The FDA classifies many automated non-waived testing platforms and point of care devices as moderate-complexity. Laboratories may consider alternative staffing structures to take advantage of increased automation and non-specialized testing.

Instrumentation designated as moderate-complexity can be operated by individuals who may only have a high school diploma but are thoroughly trained. It should be noted that regulations mandate other CLIA-defined roles such as Technical Consultant must be filled by qualified personnel to provide oversight.

High-complexity testing requires laboratory testing personnel to have at least an associate degree in chemical, physical, biological science, medical technology, nursing, or a specific number of semester hours in biology and chemistry courses.

There are quite a few other caveats regarding the qualifications of laboratory personnel who may perform high-complexity testing. However, the main point is that many people graduating from college with biology or chemistry or other biological science degree qualify to be trained to become laboratory testing personnel. The laboratory may conduct training of qualified testing personnel, but training must be thoroughly documented.


Though most laboratories prefer testing personnel have certification, it is not a federal government requirement. (There are eleven states and one territory that do require licensing.)

College students who graduated but were not accepted into medical school or those who have other biological science degrees are great candidates for laboratory testing personnel. In addition, organizations such as the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, American Medical Technologists, and the American Association of Bioanalysts offer several certification routes individuals with these degrees can utilize to become certified as technologists and technicians.

The Shortage is Real

The shortage of medical laboratory personnel has created a high vacancy rate, and laboratories are scrambling to find certified testing personnel. This trend will continue in the future, and laboratories seeking to grow market share will need to dedicate more resources to increase and retain staff to meet the rising testing demands of today and tomorrow.

Forward-thinking administrators will now reach out to colleges and students to cultivate relationships and create a nurturing working environment for tomorrow's medical laboratory testing personnel.

Staff management software is the ultimate tool for attracting and retaining a quality workforce. Discover how StaffReady's suite of solutions can help you today: 


The future of the laboratory testing industry is dynamic and full of potential. Laboratories seeking to grow their market share will invest in molecular testing and personalized medicine. The market is yearning for a credible laboratory to offer Door-Dash type of testing where the mobile lab comes to the patient's home offering high-quality laboratory testing at the end of the driveway.

None of this is possible without adequate qualified staffing. Developing innovative staffing modules, increasing automation, and dedicating resources to cultivating students should be part of any future laboratory expansion.

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Darryl Elzie, PsyD, MHA, MT (ASCP), CQA (ASQ)

Dr. Darryl Elzie has been an ASCP Medical Technologist for over 30 years and has been performing CAP inspections for 15+ years. He has a Masters of Healthcare Administration from Ashford University, a Doctorate of Psychology from The University of the Rockies, and is a Certified Quality Auditor (ASQ). He is a Laboratory Quality Coordinator for Sentara Healthcare. Sentara Laboratory Services provides services for 12 full-service hospitals, five ambulatory care centers, and a large number of medical group practices. Dr. Elzie provides laboratory quality oversight for four hospitals, one ambulatory care center, and supports laboratory quality initiatives throughout the Sentara Healthcare system.  Find Dr. Elzie on LinkedIn.