Laboratory Workforce Shortage Facts

  • In 2001, California had 76 clinical laboratory workers per 100,000 population compared to 102 nationally, and was ranked 43rd among the 50 states on this measure.
  • The average age of a CLS in California is above 50. There are not enough new CLSs in the pipeline to equal the numbers currently working but planning to retire.
  • A 2007 report from the Campaign for College Opportunity found that the supply of laboratory personnel in California would have to increase by 559% in order to meet current demand or approximately 800 new CLSs a year.
  • In 2007, there were a total of 119 CLS graduates in California. In 2008, the number is expected to increase to 125 — a significant shortfall.
  • The number of CLS training programs in California has dwindled. Today there are just 13 programs in the State – 4 academic programs and 9 hospital-based.
  • There are only two approved MLT training programs in the State, with only one being active

If not addressed, the laboratory workforce shortage will have a serious impact on the provision of healthcare in California. Possible adverse effects include:

  • Longer wait times for test results.
  • Delays in conducting surgeries and other procedures.
  • Increased wait times and overcrowding in emergency departments.
  • Downsizing or closure of in-house hospital laboratory facilities, resulting in increased costs associated with sending labs out.
  • Rural areas would be especially hard hit as they have the most difficult time attracting scarce workers.

Clinical laboratory scientists comprise a critical sector of the healthcare workforce. Due to advances in medical technology, clinical laboratory scientists perform an ever-increasing range of diagnostic tests, from simple tests of blood type or cholesterol levels to genetic testing for markers of inheritable diseases. They use computers and other sophisticated technologies to do their work. Clinical laboratory scientists work in a variety of settings, most often in hospitals, but also in physician offices, independent laboratories, universities/colleges, and the biotech industry.

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