National Laboratory Week is here!

Apr 26, 2023

As we move into April, we enjoy the longer daylight and milder weather along with the annual celebration of Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, also known as Lab Week. Occurring the last full week of each April, Lab Week has been celebrated since 1975 when it was first organized by the American Society for Medical Technology, now called the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS). Today, 17 professional organizations are sponsors of this annual event. 

The purpose of Lab Week is to recognize and celebrate the significant contributions made by medical laboratory professionals in advancing patient care and public health in the United States. Medical laboratory professionals are skilled workers who perform a variety of diagnostic tests and analyses on patient samples. They work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics and independent and public health laboratories. 

According to the CDC, 70% of today’s medical decisions depend on the 14 billion laboratory tests conducted annually in over 330,000 CLIA-certified laboratories in the U.S. It should come as no surprise that the work of the laboratory professions is critical in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, as well as in the prevention and control of outbreaks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why we celebrate Lab Week. 

Despite the important work done by medical laboratory professionals, the laboratory profession is currently facing a workforce shortage. According to a 2021 report, by 2025, the U.S. is estimated to have a shortage of approximately 100,000 medical laboratory professionals. This shortage could lead to longer wait times for test results, delays in diagnosis and treatment and an inability to respond to public health emergencies with devastating impact on patient care and public health. This shortage has been attributed to several factors, including retirements, a lack of interest in the profession among younger generations, a gradual decline in the number of training programs and the increasing demand for laboratory professionals in other fields.

At the 2022 COLA Laboratory Enrichment Forum, a panel discussed strategies for addressing the current laboratory workforce shortage. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and the understanding is that the conversation must continue, focused on practical solutions and current initiatives. 

As a result, the organizing committee of the upcoming Laboratory Enrichment Forum, which will be held in Fort Worth TX in May 2023, is planning another panel discussion addressing the workforce shortage. The panelists this year include Edna Garcia, Senior Director, Scientific Engagement and Research, ASCP; Marisa James, CEO of NAACLS; Cary Montalvo, Executive Director, Laboratory Services, Texas Oncology; and Shawn Wierzbowski, CEO of Intro. 

To attend this panel discussion and other educational presentations of the Forum, you can register here: 2023 COLA Laboratory Enrichment Forum.

Lab Week is an important annual event to acknowledge and celebrate the vital role of medical laboratory professionals in advancing patient care and public health. It also provides an opportunity to spotlight the crisis of the workforce shortage facing the laboratory field. All medical laboratory professionals and various stakeholders should join forces to develop concrete solutions to address the workforce shortage challenge. By working together, we can and will ensure that the laboratory workforce remains strong and capable of meeting the growing demand for laboratory services.

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