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Challenges and Possibilities for MLT Recruitment in Rural Ontario

By: Anas Gharra, Laboratory Manager, Cornwall Community Hospital

When I look back at my life and the decisions I made throughout my career, I sometimes second-guess myself and question my sanity when I accepted the job of a lab manager! While we are always advocating for our profession to generate more interest in a career in laboratory medicine, leaving the bench ranks and joining management presents a different set of challenges and rewards. Laboratory professionals are always striving to provide an excellent level of quality in an ever-changing environment.

The challenges facing today’s laboratory are many: changes in healthcare delivery, uncertainty of funding, striving to improve staff engagement and client satisfaction, endless pursuit of quality and efficiency, and adapting with advancements in technology and automation are only a few. Now more than ever, we all need to be adaptable to change and come up with innovative solutions to overcome obstacles.

One of the biggest obstacles facing laboratories across the country is the critical shortage of qualified MLTs. Canada is a large country covering a vast geographical area As a result, healthcare delivery in rural and remote communities is a complicated and formidable feat. Achieving appropriate levels of care in isolated communities in the North is different compared to urban and metropolitan centers in the South. Consequently, the challenges facing small rural laboratories are different from laboratories in large urban centers. MLTs in rural laboratories typically work many different benches in small core laboratory settings and are expected to work alone during some shifts on a range of tasks. For large hospitals and outpatient reference laboratories, operational efficiency requires MLTs to specialize, typically working a single discipline or bench. This means that transitioning MLTs from large laboratories to rural small core laboratories is not easy, as specialized MLTs have a hard time staying familiar with other disciplines outside their specialty.

Another recruitment challenge in small rural communities compared to large urban centers is lack of amenities required by a culturally diverse workforce. Small towns and hamlets do not offer social networks, places of worship, and newcomer integration services which tend to be available in larger cities.

Recruitment and retention of qualified staff in rural communities is a complex multifaceted problem that will require collaboration from employers, provincial government, certification bodies, and educational institutions.

This story continues in the Fall 2019 ADVOCATE, which contains stories from MLTs on the frontline of healthcare shortage. Now in your mailbox or on our app! Contact us at to get the password.


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