Oct 31, 2023

Fewer Hands on Deck: Lab Tech Labor Shortages

The growing complexity of scientific research has increased the need for qualified lab technicians, but the number of personnel available cannot meet the call for “all hands on deck.” To meet demand, labs must adapt their strategies to maximize the efficiency of the personnel they do have. Often, this can mean introducing automation to the lab, which frees up technicians’ time and effort from low-value tasks, and they can instead focus on those things that really need their attention.

Storm Approaching: What’s the Problem?

The movement of research from primarily basic to translational and clinical has dramatically increased the number of technicians needed to run a lab. Furthermore, the aging lab tech population is a significant contributor to the technician shortage; as rate of retirees rises, the labor shortage also rises, meaning increased wait times for test results, fewer tests run, and increased costs.

Weathering the Storm: How Do You Manage?

How do you manage the labor shortage? First, maximize the efficiency of your current personnel. Simplify or automate tasks that don’t need a hands-on approach. Examine the current technology and see if a different machine will match your output needs, ie, leverage technology to reduce manual labor. This may mean pivoting to a new technology, but to weather the storm, you must examine every option. Finally, develop creative solutions. Would a second blood typing machine make sense in your lab? Does it make sense to update from manual to a small automated machine? Look at what your lab actually requires, and make decisions based on that.

Smooth Sailing

The lab tech labor shortage has been around for years, and there’s no end in sight. Your lab can weather this storm and call for all hands on deck with the personnel you have already; it may simply take some creative problem-solving and investigation of various solutions to find the best way to sail this ship.