Volume 35 Number 6 | December 2021

Hassan Aziz, PhD, FACSs, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS President

Hassan AzizOur profession is facing difficult times recruiting and retaining the laboratory personnel required to do the work. Even with significant sign-on bonuses and incentives for openings, jobs remain vacant, and laboratories must decide whether to continue running their costly advertisements, pay their current personnel overtime to perform the required tasks, or dissolve the position altogether. Additionally, workforce turnover remains a major concern. A good number of practicing medical laboratory professionals are leaving their positions for reasons ranging from retirement to switching careers in an effort to land a better paying job with less responsibilities and better recognition.

Our profession also faces a challenge of public recognition. During my years in the profession, I was called by several names, ranging from lab tech, lab guy, doctor, phlebotomist, and yeah, vampire! I was rarely called a medical technologist or a medical laboratory scientist. The general public does not know who we are or what we do. It is worse when other health professionals do not know much about us. Many do not know that we go to school for a degree.

“Nothing is more powerful than informed and focused working professionals to help in shaping policies that positively affect us.”

ASCLS takes an active role in shaping the environment for laboratory professionals to maximize the efficacy of their efforts on positive patient outcomes and other issues impacting the profession. However, it is a professional obligation by all of us to advocate on behalf of our patients and the profession. Professional advocacy, by definition, means public support for or recommendations for a cause or policy. Nothing is more powerful than informed and focused working professionals to help in shaping policies that positively affect us. To that end, we must listen to each other’s struggles and to the struggles of our profession and advocate for change.

Each year since 1989, ASCLS coordinates with other like-minded stakeholders an annual event called the Laboratory Legislative Symposium. These leading organizations urge their members and leaders to come to Washington, D.C., to provide a visible and informed voice, and make our concerns known inside Congress. Each year, laboratory professionals meet with their representatives and senators on Capitol Hill as a unified front on behalf of the profession. As professionals, we should stay informed of issues that affect the profession and the public. These issues may include legal, regulatory, financial, and other health policy issues.

The experienced and trusted voices of laboratory professionals are vital to the national dialogue if we are to realize our vision. A coordinated effort is needed to be most effective in advancing major health policy issues and workforce shortages.

It is time to turn from invisible to invincible.

Hassan Aziz is Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.