CHA News Article

New Study Analyzes Medical Lab Technician Scope of Practice
UCSF Healthforce Center, CHA Healthcare Laboratory Workforce Initiative collaborated on study

With support from CHA’s Healthcare Laboratory Workforce Initiative, the University of San Francisco Healthforce Center has released the attached comprehensive study comparing scope of practice nationwide for medical laboratory technicians (MLTs).

California, along with the rest of the nation, faces a critical laboratory workforce shortage. Clinical lab scientists (CLS) — bachelor degree trained individuals licensed to perform highly complex tests in a federally approved clinical lab — are in high demand and considered among the most difficult positions to fill in a hospital. To mitigate the impact of this shortage, in 2007 California licensed MLTs, after a long period of developing both a training program and regulations. MLTs are associate degree level professionals allowed to perform moderately complex tasks under federal law.

This national study compares the California MLT supply and scope of practice to those of other states.

Findings indicate that California’s MLT supply is scarce (the lowest per capita in the nation), and the scope of practice is more restrictive than any other state. Laboratory personnel in other states that regulate MLTs generally support MLTs practicing to their highest level of training. For example, California law restricts MLTs from performing microscopic blood smear reviews, microscopic urinalysis and ABO/Rh testing — activities not prohibited by federal law. Many experts believe that if California’s MLTs were allowed to perform these moderately complex tests, laboratory efficiencies could be improved and the impact of the CLS workforce shortage eased by freeing up CLS staff  for high-complexity testing, making better use of their time and expertise.

Contact Cathy Martin at camartin@calhospital.org or (916) 552-7511 with questions.

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