Ottawa, ON – The Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) was on Parliament Hill this week to speak with parliamentarians regarding the shortage of medical laboratory technologists (MLTs) in Canada. About half of all MLTs will be eligible to retire in the next ten years, and shortages are already being felt in Canada’s rural and remote communities.
“The federal government can play a lead role in ensuring that all Canadians have access to essential medical services,” said Tania Toffner, CSMLS’ president. “Possible strategies to address the shortage are increasing the number of new graduates, better integration of internationally educated lab professionals into the Canadian workforce, and incentive programs to recruit MLTs to rural and remote communities.”
CSMLS discussed with parliamentarians three simple solutions to address the shortage proactively:
- All lab students have a clinical placement (internship) as part of their educational program. Programs cannot increase spots without corresponding clinical placements, making this a bottleneck in the system. These spots are scarce due to staffing shortages, crushing workloads and lack of dedicated education personnel. What is needed is targeted funding for dedicated clinical educators to support onsite clinical education and targeted funding for research into the value and effectiveness of clinical simulation.
- Most internationally educated laboratory professionals require upgrading of their education and experience to bring them up to Canadian standards. Internationally educated MLTs who complete a bridging program are more successful on the national certification examination. What is needed is long-term and sustainable funding for these programs to facilitate quicker entry into the workforce and funding for not-for-profit organizations, such as CSMLS, to offset costs associated with Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) and integration.
- Lastly, recruiting new medical laboratory technologist graduates to rural and remote communities is a significant challenge for Canadian medical laboratories. Ensuring that these Canadians have access to the same high-quality health care as in the rest of the country means that qualified lab professionals are needed to service these areas. In order to combat the shortage of health care professionals in rural communities, the federal government has committed to forgive a portion of Canada Student Loans for new family physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses. Given the vital role medical laboratory technologists play as part of the patient care team, they should also be included in these programs.
CSMLS says it is looking forward to continuing to work with the federal government to ensure that patient safety remains the number one priority in Canada’s health care system and that there is an adequate supply of MLTs to keep the healthcare system running at an optimal level.