The Challenge within Succession

By C.J. Woslager, DC, MS, MLS (ASCP), SM, Assistant Professor Hematology, College of Allied Health Professions, Division of Medical Laboratory Science, University of Nebraska Medical Center

“Succession planning” is a common discussion topic in laboratory leadership circles. It is an important issue, as you want to develop staff into competent leaders that are familiar with daily operations of the lab. However, for some, succession planning may not even be on your radar. These laboratories are likely experiencing a number of retirements, staff vacancies, and difficulties recruiting employees. Thus, succession planning might be lower on the priority list.

 No doubt by now you know that the Medical Laboratory Science profession struggles with exposure resulting in challenges to recruiting students to our profession. Consequently, I argue succession planning begins far before employee recruitment. It starts with attracting potential students to the field of Medical Laboratory Sciences.

Obviously, we live in challenging times. However, if there is ever an unseen benefit in this current pandemic it is that the world is beginning to understand the importance of laboratory testing. We have an opportunity to highlight the importance of our profession and we should seize this momentum to recruit those who want to make an impact. Therefore, I propose a challenge to you reading this.

I challenge you:

  • To educate high school students about the laboratory sciences and careers in the field. Obviously, in a pandemic, interacting face-to-face is unwise. However, you could offer virtual lectures or discuss cases that demonstrate the value of the laboratory.
  • Invest in the future by offering laboratory experience, whether it be specimen processing or phlebotomy, to give students an opportunity to work in a lab. Perhaps work with hospital administration to find ways to reward their dedication by financing their medical laboratory science education.
  • Host MLS students for clinical practicum experiences. This is extremely important as it not only provides students practical experiences, but also an opportunity to flaunt your laboratory as a potential place of employment. You can be a role model in demonstrating how the MLS professional is an integral part of the healthcare team.

The mission of CLMA is to empower “laboratory professionals to achieve excellence in leadership through forward-thinking educational, networking, and advocacy opportunities.” Empowering is a key term because it is a call to action. The challenge is real for laboratories, yet we need laboratories to persist and advance our cause by finding innovative ways to recruit and influence the education of the next generation of laboratory professionals. Yes - accommodating students can be daunting. However, we must take advantage of this momentum and serve our profession in a greater capacity. Passivity jeopardizes the opportunity for succession development as there will be fewer dedicated laboratory professionals thus making succession development a moot point.

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