News | March 19, 2024

Optimise The Global Medical Laboratory Workforce Through ASCP BOC Credentials

The medical laboratory field is facing a significant global workforce challenge. This shortage is due to the recent and ongoing effects of a worldwide pandemic, recruitment, and retention opportunities, as well as increased demand for laboratory services. As challenging as these issues are, they also present prospects for growth and innovation in pathology and laboratory medicine.

As decision-makers at all levels seek and implement multi-faceted solutions, leveraging credentials such as those offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology, Board of Certification (ASCP BOC) is emerging as a key strategy. This strategy not only enhances professional skills but also opens new avenues for recruitment and retention.

Who is the ASCP BOC?
ASCP BOC is a nearly 100-year-old credentialing agency for laboratory professionals. Since ASCP BOC’s establishment in 1928, they have credentialed over 625,000 laboratory professionals worldwide. In 2006, ASCP BOC began certifying laboratory professionals with an international “ASCPi” designation. To date, examination applicants span 130 countries and over 22,000 individuals have been ASCPi credentialed from 117 countries.

Since offering ASCPi in 2006, the ASCP BOC has worked with diverse, patient-centric organisations and regulatory agencies across the globe to implement and enhance strategic engagement plans for credentialing laboratory professionals.

Global workforce challenges in the medical laboratory field
According to the ASCP BOC’s 2022 ASCP Survey, many laboratories around the world report difficulties in filling open positions. This shortage impacts the quality of patient care and the effectiveness of laboratory operations.

Credential examinations add value to the global laboratory workforce by creating a reliable and cost-effective means to ensure that laboratory team members are competent, have essential knowledge sets, and are likewise patient-centric to assure high-quality, safe outcomes. ASCP BOC believes that laboratory professionals should possess appropriate academic and clinical training, pass competency-based examinations conducted by an approved credentialing organisation, and participate in continuing education programmes for ongoing professional development.

Credentialing of laboratory professionals is also the recommended approach to address the US and global medical laboratory workforce shortage. In the article, “Severe Shortages of Qualified Medical Laboratory Professionals”, the primary resolution to help address the workforce shortage is to recruit qualified board-certified laboratory professionals.

For the next generation of laboratory professionals in the US, this means that at point of graduation these professionals take a credential examination to become board-certified by organisations such as ASCP BOC. Additionally, many employers in medical laboratory and pathology practices offer on-the-job training, which complements the formal credentialing process. This hands-on experience, coupled with the intrinsic value of ASCP BOC credentials, provides a robust pathway to success for laboratory professionals. It not only enhances their skills and knowledge but also contributes significantly to expanding the laboratory professional workforce in unique sectors.

Similarly, ASCP BOC advocates for competency-based examinations conducted by an approved credentialing organisation internationally. Towards this, ASCP BOC credentials have received both official and unofficial endorsements from countries and organisations in the Middle East & North Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

How do we know that ASCP BOC credentials add value to the laboratory by ensuring laboratory team members are knowledgeable, skilled, and contributory? In 2019, the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) administered a multi-organisational survey to measure the value that credential holders place on certification. This survey collected data from a large sampling (>12,000 individuals) of credential holders representing six organisations.

This survey sought to define credential holders’ attitudes toward and experiences with certification examinations and credentialing. The survey results indicated that respondents consider certification to be very valuable to their profession, certification requirements are appropriate, ethics and code of conduct for the certifying body are beneficial to the profession, and credentialing is important for improving competence and performance in the profession.

Workforce challenges in the MENA region
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the situation is more acute due to rapid population growth, increased prevalence of chronic diseases, and a limited number of training programmes for laboratory and other healthcare professionals. A study published in the Frontiers of Public Health highlights the shortage of skilled personnel in this region. Moreover, political instability and economic challenges in some MENA countries exacerbate the problem by leading to brain drain and limited investment in healthcare infrastructure.

Sustainability in the medical laboratory and pathology context extends beyond environmental concerns. It encompasses social sustainability, which involves elevating a stable and skilled workforce in the face of challenges such as migration and talent shortages. Laboratories that adopt strategies like providing continuous professional development opportunities, career ladders based on specialist or additional credentials, fostering a positive work environment, and promoting work-life balance to retain skilled staff thrive, despite challenges. This approach not only enhances employee satisfaction but also attracts new talent.

Inclusion, diversity, equity, and access are critical components of a sustainable laboratory workforce. By creating an inclusive environment that values diversity and access, laboratories can tap into a broader talent pool and one that reflects their local community and patients. This approach is particularly important in regions like MENA, where diverse cultural backgrounds are the norm. Implementing policies that promote equity, such as equal pay for equal work and opportunities for career advancement, can elevate the retention of a diverse workforce.

ASCP BOC credentials play a vital role in promoting IDEA for the laboratory workforce. By providing a standardised assessment of skills and knowledge, these credentials ensure that all professionals, regardless of their background, are evaluated based on their competence. This objective evaluation system supports the principles of equity, access, and fairness in the workplace.

Future state of laboratories
The global workforce shortage in the medical laboratory field poses significant challenges, particularly in regions like MENA. However, by leveraging ASCP BOC credentials, laboratory decision-makers and leaders at all levels can ensure a high standard of competency among their team members. Additionally, focusing on sustainability, including social aspects like workforce migration and shortage, while embracing IDEA principles, can help laboratories attract and retain a diverse and skilled workforce. This holistic approach is essential for addressing the current challenges and ensuring the long-term viability of medical laboratory professions.

Source: Omnia Health