HAMILTON ON (March 17, 2022): “With a provincial budget announcement pending, the MLPAO implores our government to seriously consider concerning data from a peer-reviewed study into the experiences of medical laboratory professionals. Investments must be made to staunch the flow of Medical Laboratory Professionals from the field due to early retirement, sickness, and stress.
Released this week, the study investigated significant stressors and coping strategies of Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLTs) and Medical Laboratory Assistant/Technicians (MLA/Ts) working through COVID-19 in Ontario. This research project was conducted by Dr. Behdin Nowrouzi-Kia and Dr. Basem Gohar, affiliated with the University of Guelph, Laurentian University, and the University of Toronto. It revealed four major findings:
COVID-19 contributed to a notable and existing staffing shortage
The pandemic reinforced that medical laboratory employees are forgotten within the healthcare system
A poor work environment was exacerbated by the pandemic
Medical laboratory professionals are a resilient and passionate group
From the study: “In Ontario, MLTs and MLAs were not included in what the government identified as “pandemic pay” to support frontline staff experiencing severe challenges and elevated risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their exclusion further exacerbated their frustrations regarding lack of appreciation in the work environment. Like all healthcare workers, MLTs and MLAs are compassionate providers who care about their patients and felt the lack of recognition by the government in acknowledging their contribution as frontline staff providing patient care during the pandemic.”
70% of Ontario labs entered the pandemic short-staffed. The study noted COVID-19 has negatively impacted the shortage with employees needing to take early retirement due to increased work and challenges to clinical placements. It found a compounding relationship between increased presenteeism (reporting to work even when ill) and illness, occupational stress, disability, and more. Finally, it highlights limited training programs, lack of a bridging program and professional growth, and feeling forgotten as the three main factors impacting shortages.
With announcements rolling out about investments in doctors, nurses, and long-term care workers, similar consideration must be given to the lab. As the study warns, “while staff shortage and attrition are common issues in the healthcare field, disruptions in medical laboratory services would likely cause significant disruptions to the overall healthcare system.” Healthcare can not function without medical laboratory professionals.
Medical laboratory professionals are a resilient and passionate group. They serve a critical role in patient care. There is still time for our government to do the right thing and invest in medical laboratory services. April’s budget announcement must include recruitment and retention for this dedicated group before they leave the field for retirement, other professions, or illness.”
- Michelle Hoad, CEO, Medical Laboratory Professionals’ Association of Ontario.
 Gohar B and Nowrouzi-Kia B (2022) The Forgotten (Invisible) Healthcare Heroes: Experiences of Canadian Medical Laboratory Employees Working During the Pandemic. Front. Psychiatry 13:854507. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2022.854507  Based on a survey of lab leaders and professionals in May 2020.  Ibid.