Volume 38 Number 1 | February 2024
Joshua Pulido, MHA, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Board of Directors
Emerging from the pandemic, there have been significant changes in the overall workforce. While laboratory workforce shortages have been a top-of-mind concern for many years, all areas of healthcare are now impacted.1 Aiding to the ever-growing laboratory workforce shortage, the new phenomena of the “Great Resignation” has seen over 47 million Americans quit their jobs, among those are approximately 2.8 million healthcare workers.2,3
As shortages in the healthcare and laboratory workforces continue to increase, the influence of social media has exponentially contributed to the movement known as “Quiet Quitting.” Quiet Quitting refers to a growing trend where workers put forth the least amount of effort, while working the minimally required number of hours, express little or no enthusiasm, and are disengaged from their job. It is estimated that greater than 50 percent of the U.S. workforce appear to be disengaged with their job.4 During the pandemic, a significant shift in priorities occurred, resulting in a paradigm shift where this cohort of workers will not accept traditional organizational practices that do not align with today’s thinking, and many feel that they don’t “belong or fit in.”5 The laboratory community is not immune to this trend, and I have seen the groupthink firsthand in several social media groups and forums.
However, ASCLS, as a grassroots organization driven by its membership, has the opportunity to champion and be a leader in increasing the “Belonging” with our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives so all laboratory community members can contribute and participate. The values of ASCLS include “Promoting diversity supports the delivery of quality laboratory service.” Diversity encompasses all the differences that make us unique, such as race, color, ethnicity, language, nationality, sexual orientation, physical disability, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, or age. Ensuring diversity and representation exists in ASCLS is critical to promoting a more equitable profession that can deliver patient-centered care. While ASCLS must strive to reflect the diversity in the profession, we must also work towards an inclusive profession that aims to fully represent the society it serves.
“[W]hen patients, staff, and the general public see healthcare workers that look, act, and talk like them, there will be a greater sense of connectivity, acceptance, and understanding that promotes better patient care and a healthier work environment.”
The shortage in qualified laboratory personnel that continues to increase with post pandemic burnout has allowed us to examine the impact of qualified staffing as it relates to DEI. Today’s healthcare environment reflects a diversity of staff and patients, yet preconceived inequities still remain. Our daily interactions with each other are broadly based on how we were raised, what we have learned, and the environment we grew up in regarding race, nationality, gender, religion, social groups, and/or other unique associations.6
Diversity: A diverse laboratory community reflects multiple persons and personalities, with different backgrounds, identities, and demographics.7 Diversity is an indicator that can be measured for each of the following and used for developing and expanding diversity initiatives. However, diversity discussions must not be limited to race, ethnicity, or gender but should include religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and age. Diversity conversations need to recognize situations that may arise due to differences in educational backgrounds, physical characteristics, or political and/or national views. It is imperative that the laboratory community recognize and work to build an inclusive culture that recognizes and accepts differences. While many organizations have made efforts to be considered diverse, it does not necessarily reflect equity and/or inclusion. In a study by McKinsey & Co., more than half of those surveyed agreed that diversity efforts were acceptable, while 61 percent felt that inclusion efforts were less than acceptable.8
Equity: While it is a step in the right direction for the laboratory community to develop a diverse community and workforce, equity is equally important. Equity is an essential step in promoting fair access to opportunities, resources, and professional success. This means that everyone is treated, evaluated, and supported in the same manner, regardless of their uniqueness. There is often a misconception that equity and equality are synonymous. However, equality does not necessarily mean equity. Lab employees may be presented equally with promotions, salary increases, and education opportunities, but successfully obtaining access to them may be limited and can only be achieved through true equity practices. Without equity, diversity and inclusion may not be fully achievable or sustainable.
Inclusion: Inclusion is understanding and accepting strengths and identities that contribute to the engagement of our laboratory community in a manner that makes them want to participate. Individuals may have previously felt excluded from participation as they feel they are never truly part of the “inner circle.” Implementing inclusion practices allows these individuals to be part of the “inner circle.” They can now actively be involved as they are included and can make meaningful contributions and participate in developing policies and other opportunities within the organization.
Implementing DEI policies is challenging yet important in our mission as an organization to reflect our members and the broader laboratory community. It is easy to judge people based on their differences, but it takes effort to learn and understand and accept these differences. We can build a balanced and functional community that is highly productive and works well together. It is equally important to remember that when patients, staff, and the general public see healthcare workers that look, act, and talk like them, there will be a greater sense of connectivity, acceptance, and understanding that promotes better patient care and a healthier work environment.
- Michel R. “Lab Workforce Crisis Takes Top Spot”–CAP Today. The Dark Report. Published April 25, 2022. Accessed December 3, 2023. https://www.darkintelligencegroup.com/lab-marketplace/lab-workforce-crisis-takes-top-spot-cap-today/.
- Flynn J. 20 Stunning Great Resignation Statistics : Why are Americans Leaving their Jobs? Zippia. Published October 12, 2022. Accessed December 3, 2023. https://www.zippia.com/advice/great-resignation-statistics/.
- Clinical Laboratories Suffer During the ‘Great Resignation.’ Dark Daily. Published February 23, 2022. Accessed December 3, 2023. https://www.darkdaily.com/2022/02/23/clinical-laboratories-suffer-during-the-great-resignation/.
- Harter J. Is Quiet Quitting Real? Gallup. Published September 6, 2022. Accessed December 3, 2023. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/398306/quiet-quitting-real.aspx.
- Cincotta S. How Your DEI Programs Can Help Reverse “The Great Resignation.” Aperian Global. Published October 22, 2021. Accessed May 16, 2023. https://www.aperianglobal.com/how-your-dei-programs-can-help-reverse-the-great-resignation/.
- Kurec AS. Managing the multicultural workforce. Clin Leader Manage Rev. 2010;24(2):1-13.
- Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at work. Creating programs with tangible value. Business Management Daily. Published online 2022.
- Agovino T. Companies Try a New Approach to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Honest Conversations. SHRM. Published August 4, 2020. Accessed December 3, 2023. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/a-new-approach-to-diversity-equity-and-inclusion.aspx.
Joshua Pulido is the Director of Biobank and Clinical Specimens for Grifols Bio Supplies, Inc., in San Diego, California.