In 2016, the Bureau of Labor statistics anticipated needed growth of 12,000 new medical laboratory professionals per year to meet growing demand. However, academic programs currently produce just 5,000 graduates per year.
Compounding the problem is the average age of the laboratory workforce, which has been increasing steadily. In 2004, the average age of a certified medical technologist was 43.7 (which was slightly older than of nurses (43.3) and was aging at a 78 percent faster rate than the entire U.S. labor market.
On September 28, 2016, the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted its third determination of VHA occupations with the largest staffing shortages as required by Section 301 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014. They determined that the largest critical need occupations were Medical Officer, Nurse, Psychologist, Physician Assistant, Physical Therapist, and Medical Technologist (clinical laboratory personnel).
This crisis is the result of a decades-long decline in MLS and MLT producing academic programs. From 1970 the number of accredited programs declined from nearly 1,000 to less than 450 in 2006. Since 2008, the number of programs has rebounded modestly from 427 to 479 in 2015. That increase has not been nearly enough to address the increasing demand. Further the shortage exacerbates the challenge in securing clinical sites for training.
For nearly two decades, ASCLS and the rest of the laboratory community have been sounding the alarm. In June 16, 2000, representatives from twelve (12) different laboratory organizations and two (2) government agencies met in Chicago to participate in the first Summit on the “Shortage of Clinical Laboratory Personnel,” sponsored by the Education Scientific Assembly of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS). Participating organizations included: