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Staffing!


jayinsat
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Finding and retaining competent blood bank techs post-Covid has become a real challenge. We have lost so many techs to retirement or travel agencies that it has created a logistical nightmare staffing the blood bank 24/7. There just aren't enough techs to go around. Those still working are all close to retirement (myself included) and are all burnt out. Is anyone else experiencing the same issues?

The looming lab staffing crisis is now upon us. Help!

 

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We've had staffing issues (CLS/MT less so with MLT) not just in the blood bank but the entire laboratory.  With COVID on top of retirements, we lost a lot to the COVID testing in our MDL and they haven't come back.  Plus we are increasing in acuity and volume of patients to the point we're now trying to increase staffing on all shifts.  We have 3 travelers right now, with one working for us for many years (night shift is the hardest to fill) and 2 newer travelers that have just renewed their contracts.  The younger people don't want to stay in the same place, they like being able to take as much time off as they want when they want, and they like the money.  I know COVID hasn't helped but I think the problem is more the fact there just aren't enough CLS/MT's out there and there's no schools anymore that you can get a BSMT vs science BS (like biology) + post grad training.  Most of us in the lab aren't vocal enough at the state and national levels like the nurses and RTs (glamor jobs of the hospital) to get the word out that lab is necessary/required and we don't have support.  There is a CLS program in our area but we're so short staffed we can't bring in the CLS trainees because we can't even staff without supervisors and technical specialists on the bench as it is.  

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Same.  Everyone who is not bound down is all going travel tech.   Even our new hire is looking into it.  It just a big gap with how much travel tech are getting, like almost double.  Except no insurance and all the perks.  So our FTE who are working, seeing travel tech making more than them for the same work are causing this crisis.  One of my shift FTE went into travel tech and were getting paid 3.5k per week in Portland.  Heard same crisis with travel nursing too. 

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We are experiencing all of that.  

The fact that my hospital refuses to even think about sign on bonuses makes it even worse.  The hospital down the street has an $8-12K bonus and their benefits and pay were already better than ours.

I saw a few weeks ago that a hospital in Philadelphia is offering a $20K sign on bonus.

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We are also experiencing this.  My system isn't offering sign-on bonuses for technical staff but up to $30,000 for acute care nursing.  Our lab has at least 12 vacancies on 2nd shift and similar for 3rd shift.  1st shift technical staff are working incentive contracts for bonuses  - double shifts for some or weeks without days off - and are burning out so morale is at an all time low.  Retention of staff is a big problem.  My lab is staffed by long-term staff - all the recent hires (within last 4 years) have quit - gone to school, out of the profession completely, gone to other facilities that are closer to home and pay more, gone to other labs that pay more for less work stress.  We just started hiring travelers for some of the technical positions and phlebotomy because there just aren't applicants for full-time, permanent positions and the pay just isn't enough and there are so many vacancies - definitely a buyer's market for lab staffing.

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3 hours ago, Baby Banker said:

We are experiencing all of that.  

The fact that my hospital refuses to even think about sign on bonuses makes it even worse.  The hospital down the street has an $8-12K bonus and their benefits and pay were already better than ours.

I saw a few weeks ago that a hospital in Philadelphia is offering a $20K sign on bonus.

We are seeing the same issue in our rural hospital lab (170 bed hospital). Using a traveler on evenings and one on nights right now, 3 open positions with 2 more resignations expected before the end of the year. We offered to 4 students who trained here - no takers. All of them are off to the bright lights, big city and sign on bonuses.

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WOW just WOW!!!  Although I new it was bad everywhere reading all your comments is so disheartening.  Before COVID started the state of CA was already talking about using nurses in the lab with no requirement for the post graduate training we all had.  This didn't go through.  But I also understand CA gave CLS licenses to international physicians without a training requirement.  So these staff come in and have clinical knowledge but know nothing about laboratory work.  This means we're now basically training college graduates that have no laboratory experience which takes significantly longer to train and with no experience they have no self-confidence.  It's really quite horrifying.  

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We have had several openings for many months.  One problem in this tourist town is that no one can afford to move here.  We have 3 travelers in the lab in our hospital and several more in our smaller hospitals.  One tiny rural hospital in our region has zero lab employees--only some travelers and a respiratory therapist trying to supervise the lab.  We have been sponsoring lab assistants and other current lab employees to take online MLS programs for a few years so we grow our own, but we don't have the bandwidth to do the clinicals for more than a few per year and that won't fill all of our positions.  The next few years will be rough as the college students who may have taken a pause going to or through college in the past two years will slow the pipeline of outcoming new grads.  And this is a smaller generation than any before.  I suppose the peak of boomer retirements may have happened already but there are still some of us left.

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Wow, reading the challenges my American colleagues are having!  I thought it was bad here in Ontario, Canada.  The hospital laboratories here generally pay the same - unionized or non.  And we don't generally have any sign on bonuses outside of working in the North, although I have been hearing some nursing/physician incentives.  And I don't think I have ever heard of travelers here.

We are starting to get creative with scheduling (looking at 12 hour shift models) and using more lab assistants to do work that does not require the MLT (or lab scientist in the US).  Even in the blood bank.  People are tired and burnt out.

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Working at what used to be the county hospital, but is now a hospital authority for the city, not affiliated with a hospital system, there is NO possibility of a sign on bonus. Many other locations nearby, all system hospitals, are offering sign on bonuses. 

That said, we are doing well in the BB here, I have been mostly fully staffed throughout COVID. Core lab on the other hand....has had some issues, and candidates are VERY few and far between. COVID brought us our first traveling MLSs in many years, and a lot of traveling phlebs. 

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  • 6 months later...

I am al lab manager in rural area hospital.  Have anyone tried to recruit non-traditional candidates with Bachelor's or Master's degrees in Biology or Chemistry.  According to CLIA #0e101a">A candidate with a master's or bachelor's degree in a chemical, physical, or biological is acceptable.  if any one has a successful story in recruiting and training non tradition lab?  Please share your experience.

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@Baby Banker - sign on bonuses - unfortunately - are NOT the answer.  Our hospital offered a $10k sign on bonus and $1500 moving expenses.....ALL of the people who were hired for our BB in those positions are all gone.  They worked their "required" time to get all their $$ and then they were gone - not to mention the people it attracted were less than ideal candidates for our BB - but we had so many openings we pretty much couldn't NOT take them.

Edited by Bet'naSBB
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In a sense our hospital is somewhat unique in that we used to have a hospital based MLS program.  I was the BB instructor. Because we had about 9 openings we were forced to be "creative".  We started pursuing BS grads who met the criteria for our MLS program when it was still in existence.  Because I was the BB instructor - I still had ALL my lectures which I had since recorded for our Pathology Resident program.  After at least 2 interviews each - giving them information about basic BB'ing that they had to study to answer questions during future interviews -  we have hired some of these BS grads,  Their 1st month is "School"  where I basically teach them BB as I would have taught my students.  They are not working the bench at all - just student samples, etc.  I also give them ALL my tests.  Once they complete our internal BB program - they move on to training at the bench.  After working in our BB for a year, they will be eligible to sit for the BB(ASCP).  Our first 2 came in February and the 2nd 2 started in August.  So far 3 of the 4 seem to be doing fairly well.  The 4th isn't "bad" - they just came for working in the research environment and their research perspective isn't really a good fit (although we hired them because we thought that would be a great asset!)  but it's getting a smidge better day by day.  

We did have 9 openings at one time with at least 4 on 3rd shift.....we are now looking at 2 openings for which we are being "picky" and are looking specifically for techs with at least 1 year BB experience.

We are a very busy - very large transfusion service and also do just about all of our own reference work.  Really the only thing we send out is genotyping.

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On 10/5/2022 at 11:41 AM, cheru26 said:

I am al lab manager in rural area hospital.  Have anyone tried to recruit non-traditional candidates with Bachelor's or Master's degrees in Biology or Chemistry.  According to CLIA A candidate with a master's or bachelor's degree in a chemical, physical, or biological is acceptable.  if any one has a successful story in recruiting and training non tradition lab?  Please share your experience. 

If the candidate has commercial lab experience running HPLC or LC/MS/MS they will have direct transferable skills and experience with following SOPs/procedures, running QC and tight deadlines. So they would definitely be trainable. However you would have to teach them everything BB as BetnaSBB described above. Do you have the time for that commitment? 

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This is so incredibly disheartening to hear. Since my last post 6 months ago, the BB staffing is still going well, and I thank my people ALL the time! Other hospitals nearby continue to offer sign on bonuses, and we still cannot afford to do so, for lab or nursing. The core lab was down 13 positions at one point, mostly nights and evenings, and has a revolving set of 2 travelers every few months. 

We have our own MLS school for post BS training, and will graduate 8 people in November. Everyone is hanging on for that basically. The only other MLS school in the state graduates about 20 every May, and they always head to the bigger better sign on bonus so far through the pandemic. In Denver, there are TONS of MLS jobs, with a bunch in blood bank, so people can take their pick. 

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We only allow the non-lab-educated with bachelor's degree to work as micro techs with the expectation that they will sit for the categorical after time is put in.  I'll work the bench every day before I allow that in blood bank.  Like Ensis said, you'd have to teach them everything.  Blood banking isn't touched upon in any biology or chem degree... or any degree besides lab science that I know of.  It's hard to instill critical thinking on a topic they don't have the theory for.  It would just be following IFTTT process, in best case scenario.

 

I mentioned in another thread, the problem we are facing in addition to the staffing is that we have very few people who are eligible to assess competency.  For CLIA, must be at least be a bachelors with 1 yr experience for mod complexity assessment.  We have a lot of MLTs or brand new MLS techs.

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6 minutes ago, jshepherd said:

In Denver, there are TONS of MLS jobs, with a bunch in blood bank, so people can take their pick. 

When I was moving to the area I couldn't find ANYTHING blood bank specific.  That's why I'm in Cheyenne.  Sad to hear there's such a vacancy increase.  The lab here is on the upswing.  Having trouble finding generalists for nights, but we've had luck with H1B visa sponsorship in the past and are considering that again.

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On 10/6/2022 at 10:17 AM, RRay said:

When I was moving to the area I couldn't find ANYTHING blood bank specific.  That's why I'm in Cheyenne.  Sad to hear there's such a vacancy increase.  The lab here is on the upswing.  Having trouble finding generalists for nights, but we've had luck with H1B visa sponsorship in the past and are considering that again.

We are currently bringing in 3 techs with H1B visa sponsorship. We've had one or two at a time a few times in the past with a generally good experience. We've been so short for so long that this was a necessity.

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Staffing is a nightmare, we are < 100 bed rural hospital in a retirement community and have multiple open positions on all shifts, using multiple travelers and non-registered techs (for micro assistants, send-out dept. processing and covid testing). Losing techs to retirement and traveling (as they say they can't continue to train travelers and pick up their slack knowing the travelers are making so much more money). Most hires are new grads so training is more intensive. Everyone is training fatigued, morale is down, techs are burnt out. We are sometimes training two techs at once! We do offer sign on bonuses (5-10 K) and similar bonus incentives to existing techs to cover the night shifts, but still having trouble. We are doing some 10 and 12 hour shift experimentation with travelers and hired a tech to work just weekends who has not yet started training. We are hiring two international techs who agree to 3 year commitment and obtain a green card at end of 3 years for night shift coverage. Housing is is hard to find and unaffordable here as well. Everyone has gone to vacation rental property (if they had rentals) so now there is minimal rental inventory and housing prices have not come down from the severe increases of recent years. No end in sight to staffing shortages. I can't wait to retire next year!  It is time for contract negotiations to start so hopefully there will be some big pay increases to ease this crisis.

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20 hours ago, NancyC said:

Staffing is a nightmare, we are < 100 bed rural hospital in a retirement community and have multiple open positions on all shifts, using multiple travelers and non-registered techs (for micro assistants, send-out dept. processing and covid testing). Losing techs to retirement and traveling (as they say they can't continue to train travelers and pick up their slack knowing the travelers are making so much more money). Most hires are new grads so training is more intensive. Everyone is training fatigued, morale is down, techs are burnt out. We are sometimes training two techs at once! We do offer sign on bonuses (5-10 K) and similar bonus incentives to existing techs to cover the night shifts, but still having trouble. We are doing some 10 and 12 hour shift experimentation with travelers and hired a tech to work just weekends who has not yet started training. We are hiring two international techs who agree to 3 year commitment and obtain a green card at end of 3 years for night shift coverage. Housing is is hard to find and unaffordable here as well. Everyone has gone to vacation rental property (if they had rentals) so now there is minimal rental inventory and housing prices have not come down from the severe increases of recent years. No end in sight to staffing shortages. I can't wait to retire next year!  It is time for contract negotiations to start so hopefully there will be some big pay increases to ease this crisis.

Nancy,

I echo everything you said, but I am experiencing the same things in a 400 bed hospital in downtown San Antonio. This is not sustainable and some sort of major intervention needs to happen very soon. After 37 years, I want out of this field. 

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On 10/13/2022 at 4:43 AM, jayinsat said:

Nancy,

I echo everything you said, but I am experiencing the same things in a 400 bed hospital in downtown San Antonio. This is not sustainable and some sort of major intervention needs to happen very soon. After 37 years, I want out of this field. 

So sorry to hear that. That is really tough.  The last 2 years have been a nightmare to so many people in the lab. Perhaps talk to Greg Abbott, maybe he can offer some solutions. He is a very helpful person. Him and I went for a walk the other day, talking about his plans for gun control and power grid regulations {eyeroll emoji). 

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My 2nd job is only per-diem, but I have been working almost everyday on my days off from my 1st job.  We are so short of staff, the Lab Manager has to fill in for several evening shifts herself. That means, she does her day shift work and then continues on to evening shift and goes home at midnight almost everyday. They are so happy to see me on my days off from my 1st job, because they sorely need the help. The only upside to all this is I am getting so much overtime $$$. That's about it.  

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